I feel like I'm bashing my head against the wall here.
You guys have got to separate civil and criminal court matters. The "God Hates Fags" crews were not guilty of breaking any law.
The First Amendment only guarantees that no laws
(read:criminalization of...) will be enacted which infringe upon one's freedom of speech (and other things). You're still free to say anything you want, and equally free to pay civil consequences if a jury of your peers determines that the intention behind your speech was malicious.
Ever heard of these nifty terms? Slander? Libel? Inciting a riot? I guess these provisions of the civil code are all encroaching on your "freedom of speech" as well?
Actually Inciting a riot is a CRIMINAL, not civil issue. But you might want to check again and see if your First Amendment rights can be abridged by civil action. I think you might be surprised. No one has said a word about criminal laws being broken.
Now, follow closely, I never said that Phelps was being sued for First Amendment issues. I have always contended, and all my little examples have followed with the following contention.
This suit, with the precedents that it is trying to set[apparently intentionally] have an IMPACT on First Amendment rights to protest as it gives courts a precedent to RESTRAIN a public protest on malice and invasion of privacy grounds. It also tries to set a precedent of fiscal penalty if the recipient of Constitutionally protected protest "feels" threatened or maligned. That is where the ruling crosses the line.
This ruling would stop you from protesting at a clinic if you wanted to protect your families assets unless you put principle above your family's financial security. It would stop you from protesting at a safe harbor sanctuary for aliens if it meant you might have your wages attached. Again, principle would take a back seat to your self preservation.
If a Democratic President/Congress raised taxes to 60% for white collar professionals with under three kids you might want to protest that but if the THOUGHT that your protest might scare the secretary of the local Congressman and your house and savings might just be at risk with this precedent - you might just not protest.
No laws were broken, but until it is cleared through the courts each protest in this country has a cloud hanging over it and that is what the First Amendment was intended to keep from happening. Free means free.