A judge in North Carolina has defended the arrest of two men for the “kissing” of a gay man and accused the state’s top prosecutor of trying to stifle the process of seeking a civil rights complaint.
The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday upheld the arrest and subsequent convictions of David Pfeifer and Christopher Smith, and issued an order that would make the men’s cases public.
The case of Pfeiger, a gay law professor, and Smith, a black transgender man, has been a flashpoint for years in North and South Carolina, where gay rights activists have pushed for the two men to be prosecuted and charged.
A judge had previously rejected an appeal by Pfeger’s lawyer, who said he would appeal the lower court’s ruling.
The North Charleston Police Department arrested Pfeiber, Smith and two other men in August 2014 and charged them with disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, resisting arrest and criminal trespass.
In January, Pfeifier’s attorney argued that the arrest violated the North Carolina Constitution, saying it violated his client’s right to due process.
The state Supreme Court denied Pfeibers appeal.
In the case of Smith, the state Supreme Justice ruled that the charges violated his rights under the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of expression.
North Carolina is one of only three states that does not have a constitutional right to free speech.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that Pfeifers constitutional rights to free expression were violated.
The case was headed to trial but the Justice Department, in a statement, said Pfeiffer and Smith were not involved in the protests that occurred that day and said they had not participated in any protests.