New York Pro-Life Group Facing Discrimination Holds Women’s Event
by Steven Ertelt
July 24, 2004
Westchester, NY (LifeNews.com) — A pro-life group that had to file a discrimination suit against a New York County to access to a public building will be returning for their second annual even commemorating the granting of suffrage to women.
Last August, Regina Riely filed a lawsuit against the Westchester County Board of Legislators for denying her request to use the county’s facilities, including the legislative chambers.
Because of its granite walls, high ceilings and art-deco flourishes, the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ chambers on the eighth floor of the Michaelian Office Building make it one of the most dignified and sought-after public spaces in the county.
While other groups such as the pro-abortion National Organization of Women and the Westchester Coalition for Legalized Abortion were able to use the facilities, Riely wanted to use them for a pro-life event, called "Women’s Equality Day (Reformed)" to commemorate the granting of women’s suffrage in 1920.
Her request was repeatedly denied.
While Riely was able to get permission to hold the event last August in a one-time agreement, Elizabeth Rex, President of the Children First Foundation, said the treatment the group experienced was "outrageous," as there were "no chairs, no podium, no microphone, no air conditioning, and no water," according to Rex.
One woman who brought her own bottle of water was told she could not bring it with her into the building.
Last month, legislative leaders announced the group would be able to hold their event again this year.
Following the announcement, Riely’s organization held a brief news conference and revealed that the county had also paid $10,000 in a settlement on the suit, the second check written by Westchester County to settle First Amendment lawsuits in two years.
The decision to allow the group to return came after two legislators agreed to sponsor the event, Vito Pinot (D-Tuchahoe) and Robert Astorino (R- Mount Pleasant).
Astorino said his pro-life views are irrelevant to his sponsorship.
"Even if there’s a group no one agrees with, if no one sponsored them, I’d step forward. The policy needs to be equal for everyone," said Astorino.
A bill requiring that groups have legislators sponsor them and only allow events directly related to current legislation has stalled in committee, as concerns about the discriminatory nature of such regulations have been raised.
Those rules, previously unwritten, were used in the attempt to prevent Riely from holding the pro-life event last year.
Throughout the fight, Riely’s goal has been simple.
"Equal access and freedom of speech," said Riely, "We’re just asking our due."