(CNN/WCIA) – When Bryton Mellott posted a picture last year on Fourth of July weekend, he never knew it would get so much attention.
He said, “My intent in posting the picture was to have a discussion with my immediate group of friends and community and family members. It was never really intended to become the semi-national issue.”
The picture went viral and caught the attention of Urbana Police Department; he said officers asked him to take it down. The department told WCIA they were worried about his safety, since Mellott and his co-workers were getting death threats.
However, Mellott said he never heard any credible threats. When he didn’t take it down, Mellott was arrested.
Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said, “Bryton felt unsafe and uncomfortable in that jail cell, which he should have never been in. I think that’s really the connection that he was expressing himself about issues, including the issues about the treatment of LGBT people in our society and then here he is, as someone from that community, he feels unsafe.”
Mellott was only in jail for five hours and charges against him were dropped, but his lawyers said that’s not the point; they said they need to get that old law off the books.
Attorney Rebecca Glenberg said, “There’s no way to sue a state legislature for an unconstitutional law the way the courts have set up the mechanism for constitutional cases. You really have to sue the individuals who were directly responsible for bringing about the violation of the constitutional right. So the fact that the officers are defendants doesn’t represent any sort of ill will towards those officers, but they are legally the proper defendants.”
Mellott said he didn’t mean to be disrespectful, if that’s how people took it. However, even though it’s been tough, he said he’s glad he started this conversation; “I have no regrets in doing it because those who reacted negatively to this have since talked to me and I’ve made progress with talking to them about these issues that are near and dear to my heart.”
The city attorney refused to comment on the case because it’s currently in litigation.