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LGBT Advocates Sue Over Kentucky State Fair Arrests

Laura Ellis

Three advocates for LGBT rights who were arrested last year at the state fair’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction have filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky State Police.

The suit was filed Monday evening in Jefferson Circuit Court. The plaintiffs are arguing false arrest, First Amendment free speech violation, First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution. The suit also seeks punitive damages.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, and fellow activists Sonja de Vries and Carla Wallace, were arrested in August while protesting at the annual breakfast event, which is considered a staple of the Kentucky State Fair.

The charges were eventually dropped.

Hartman speculated last year that the group may eventually file suit against the state police. In an interview with WFPL Monday evening, he said the lawsuit is a vindication.

Hartman said he’s looking for the suit to send a message that “you really do have to follow the law and practice the law or else there will be penalties involved.”

“If we didn’t stand up for our rights, which had been violated, what message were we sending to other folks who also had their rights violated,” he said.

A spokesman for the Kentucky State Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In October 2015, state police spokesman Trooper Paul Blanton said the agency’s “actions will be defended” if the activists moved forward with a lawsuit.

Hartman and other LGBT advocates regularly protest the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction. He said the Farm Bureau promotes discriminatory policies, such as its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Officials with the Kentucky Farm Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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