The son of a state senator is suing the speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives and the director of the Legislative Research Commission in an attempt to overturn their decision to permanently ban him from a portion of the Capitol Annex.
Dan Seum Jr., the son of Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum, R-Louisville, is asking a federal judge to declare the ban unenforceable under the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions. He is also seeking reimbursement of attorney fees and legal expenses.
He was barred from the third floor of the state Capitol Annex building by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, in February after he allegedly made racially offensive comments in front of legislative aides.
In a 12-page lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Seum claims his comments were taken out of context and that the ban restricts his ability to talk to lawmakers in his role as director of veterans affairs for Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana. The non-profit is pushing lawmakers to legalize medicinal use of cannabis in Kentucky. Seum also is one of three plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court to overturn Kentucky’s ban on medical marijuana.
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Daisy Olivo, communications director for House Republicans, said Hoover has not seen the lawsuit and has no comment on it. Rob Weber, a spokesman for LRC Director David Byerman, said Byerman is not able to comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit contained a letter Byerman sent to Seum on Feb. 29. It informed him that he was permanently banned from the third floor of the Capitol Annex at the direction of Hoover for “offensive comments” he made on Feb. 17 in front of legislative staffers. The third floor is where many state legislators’ offices are located.
Byerman said Seum was in the lobby of the Annex’s third floor awaiting a meeting with a lawmaker and that after he gave his name to legislative assistants he “proceeded to engage in a racially-charged monologue.”
Some of the offensive comments, Byerman said in his letter, included that whites were afraid that “coloreds” would have sex with white women, referring to blacks and Latinos as “coloreds” and saying white people were afraid of “negroes.”
“You attempted to justify your comments by claiming they described common sentiment during the 1930s,” said Byerman. “An African-American employe was seated within a few feet of you. She was offended to the extent that she left her work station in distress. Another LRC employee was present and reported to being offended by your statements as well.”
Byerman also said an investigation substantiated the claims that Seum made those statements. Hoover directed him to inform Seum of the ban, Byerman said.
In his lawsuit, Seum said he was quoting a racially-charged statement attributed to a former U.S. drug enforcement officer and that the ban was imposed in retaliation for his communication of political ideas without any hearing or chance to appeal.
As part of his job, Seum said, he works to educate the public about the history, background and motives behind prohibitions on cannabis.
On Feb. 17, as he and other members of his group were on the third floor of the Capitol Annex, they started talking with a group of women also waiting to see a legislator, Seum said.
Seum said he explained some of the political history of the criminalization of cannabis in the United States, including the influence of Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who was appointed in 1930.
Seum said he read and discussed a part of this quote attributed to Anslinger: “Most marijuana smokers are colored people, jazz musicians and entertainers. Their satanic music is driven by marijuana, and marijuana smoking by white women makes them want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and others.”
The lawsuit says Seum was not made aware of any problems created by the conversation until he received Byerman’s letter.