MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s largest gay rights group was awarded $87,000 in attorneys’ fees by a judge who scolded a Louisiana pastor and his lawyer for bringing a frivolous lawsuit claiming the group defamed him.
Grant Storms of the Reformer Ministries in Marrero, La., claimed in the lawsuit that Action Wisconsin defamed him by saying remarks he made at a 2003 anti-gay conference in Milwaukee advocated the murder of gays.
But in a ruling last week, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Patricia McMahon said the group’s interpretation of the remarks was reasonable and the lawsuit lacked merit from the day it was filed in February 2004.
The judge also blasted Storms’ lawyer, James Donohoo of Milwaukee, saying he should have known the complaint was a waste of time.
Storms was one of several speakers at the “International Conference on Homo-Fascism,” a gathering of people who railed against gays.
Action Wisconsin obtained an audio recording of the conference and publicized remarks that the group said incited violence and hatred.
In his speech, Storms said gay rights’ opponents should “start taking it to the streets.” He mimicked gun fire: “Boom, boom, boom, boom. There’s twenty! Ca-ching,” according to a transcript.
Storms said Wednesday any contention that he was advocating the murder of gays is “ludicrous and ridiculous.” He called the judge “liberal” and “insane.”
“I was saying, the Christian community needs to go forward and stand against the homosexual agenda,” he said, vowing to appeal the decision. “We’ll win this case and we’ll win the cultural war. We have God on our side.”
Action Wisconsin’s attorney, Lester Pines, said the dismissal of Storms’ lawsuit and the declaration that it was frivolous is a victory for free speech and Action Wisconsin. The group is gearing up to fight a proposed amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution banning gay marriage that will appear on the November ballot.
“This is going to be a very vicious campaign and I want everybody to know that if they think they are going to use phony defamation claims against Action Wisconsin to try to divert it, we will vigorously defend them,” Pines said.
Action Wisconsin also criticized state Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, for attending the Milwaukee conference. Reynolds said Wednesday he stopped by for 20 minutes as a courtesy.
Donohoo said he would appeal the awarding of attorneys’ fees, insisting the lawsuit was not frivolous.
But Action Wisconsin’s executive director, Chris Ott, who was named in the lawsuit, said the ruling “sends a signal that bringing a frivolous lawsuit like this is a risky proposition.”
We appreciate your support
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.