Originally created 04/10/03

U.S. Court of Appeals denies Burk's request

ATLANTA - A federal appeals court denied a request Wednesday from protesters at this week's Masters Tournament to be able to picket near Augusta National Golf Club's main gate.

"It's over until after the Masters," said Jim Wall, the attorney for Augusta. "Their appeal will be heard in due course."

Attorneys for the protesters said that they are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after getting the one-sentence denial from a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

They had asked for an emergency ruling and got one, though not the one they wanted, in time for a rush appeal to either all 11 judges of the court or to the nation's highest court.

Attorneys for the protesters - who had planned to demonstrate Saturday - and the Augusta Commission each filed briefs Wednesday.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union - in a brief filed on behalf of Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headed by Jesse Jackson - wrote, "Our courts have consistently upheld the right to effectively express one's views on a matter of public concern on the public street."

Ms. Burk and the Rev. Jackson applied under the county's protest ordinance shortly after it was passed earlier this year. Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength cited safety on traffic-heavy Washington Road when he permitted their demonstrations about a half-mile away on a private field.

The ACLU attorneys say the ordinance violates First Amendment rights to freedom of speech on a public street. That same amendment to the Constitution allows the club to exclude women.

The protesters acknowledged in their brief that the club has a legal right to pick its own members, but they say it has a moral obligation to add women.


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