Judge rules Laguna Beach parade can exclude Minutemen

The Associated Press

A judge ruled Tuesday that organizers of Laguna Beach's annual Patriots Day Parade have the right to exclude members of the volunteer border patrol group Minuteman Project.

The group's co-founder, Jim Gilchrist, sought to be included in the parade lineup, arguing his constitutional rights of free expression were violated.

"The parade is a speech. It's expression ... and they have a right, within certain limits, to put on the parade they want to put on," Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Brenner said.

It was not known whether Gilchrist would seek an appeal. A message left for his attorney, Richard Ackerman, was not immediately returned Monday.

"This is a victory of sorts, although it's not one we take any pleasure in," said Charles Quilter II, vice president of the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade Association.

"We were saddened by the fact that we were in court at all to defend our rights to enforce our bylaws."

The Minuteman Project last year organized thousands of volunteers to patrol the Mexican border and report efforts to cross it illegally.

Two members of the group who live in Laguna Beach applied to take part in the March 4 parade, which has been held annually since 1967. The organization proposed a float bearing dancers who would perform a choreographed act with binoculars and folding chairs to imitate border patrollers and actors in Revolutionary War costumes.

They were turned down by the parade association, whose bylaws ban religious or political advocacy groups from the parade. The group also argued it can reject or accept whomever it wants because it is privately funded and receives no taxpayer money.