Both men’s cases stem from protests in late 2015 when Andrew March, 45, of Lewiston and Brian Ingalls, 27, of Lisbon were told by Portland police that they were preaching too loudly outside the building on Congress Street where Planned Parenthood provides health care services, according to court documents.
Both men belong to Cell 53, a Lewiston church, and regularly protest Friday mornings because the clinic provides abortion services. March and Ingalls oppose the medical procedure on religious grounds.
March sued Maine Attorney General Janet Mills in December 2015 in federal court in Portland. About the same time, Mills’ office sought an injunction to keep Ingalls from preaching so loudly that he could be heard inside the clinic.
Attorneys for March will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision issued in August by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to information in the court system’s electronic case filing system. A three-judge panel reversed U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen’s May 2016 decision that found the noise section of the Maine Human Rights Act unconstitutional because it was based on the content of what a protester said. The appellate court found that the noise section of the law, as written, is not based on the message being conveyed during a protest but to protect the rights of a person receiving health care services.
The decision applies only to protests outside facilities that provide health care services. It would not apply to demonstrations outside the State House or a municipal building, for instance.
The petition has not yet been filed with the nation’s highest court but is expected to be filed before the end of the year. Justices agree to hear oral arguments in about 10 percent of the cases attorneys ask to be reviewed.
Efforts to reach attorneys with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., who represent both protesters, were unsuccessful Thursday and Friday.
Mills said earlier this week that she believes the 1st Circuit’s decision would be upheld if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear arguments in the case. She called the decision “well-reasoned.”
“The noise provision was the product of a careful legislative process,” Judge David Barron wrote in the 50-page decision. “That process sought to forge a consensus among many competing interests in order to address what all parties to this dispute agree is a serious concern regarding the health and safety of those seeking health services.”
Ingalls’ case in Cumberland County Superior Court was stayed pending the outcome of March’s federal lawsuit. But on Oct. 4, Justice Lance Walker ordered Ingalls to restrain from “intentionally making any noise that can be heard within the building at 443 Congress Street in Portland or any other Planned Parenthood facility.”
If Ingalls were to violate the order, he could be arrested and face jail time and fines.
The state had sought to prevent Ingalls from keeping people from “obstructing” access to the building or from coming within 50 feet of the 443 Congress St. or any Planned Parenthood facility. Walker rejected both those requests as too restrictive under the 1st Amendment.