"This is it. This is the resounding, grand-slam, home-run victory I've been waiting for," Lively told The Boston Globe.
The pastor filed the appeal after winning a summary judgment against LGBT activists known as the Sexual Minorities of Uganda. (SMUG). SMUG sued Lively in 2012 for sharing his biblical views on homosexuality during three visits to Uganda in 2002 and 2009.
SMUG had tried to sue Lively under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), accusing him of "international crimes against humanity." In 2013, the US Supreme Court confirmed that the ATS was never intended to allow a foreign citizen to sue a US citizen.
According to a press release from the Liberty Counsel, instead of dismissing the case, US District Judge Michael A. Ponsor allowed SMUG to continue their litigation of the case for the next four years, including 100 hours of depositions and 40,000 pages of documents.
In their lawsuit, SMUG could not produce any evidence against the pastor. Instead, the evidence showed that Lively, in a country where homosexuality has been illegal for decades, urged treatment of people identifying as LGBT with respect and dignity, and the liberalization of Uganda's laws against homosexuality, even as he spoke in favor of biblical sexual morality and against the LGBT political agenda.
Finally, in 2017, Judge Ponsor dismissed SMUG's lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. However, while giving his legal opinion, the judge called Lively's efforts and writings against LGBT individuals "odious" and "crackpot bigotry."
Even though they had lost with the dismissal of their lawsuit, SMUG wanted to use the judge's ruling to continue litigation against Lively in other courts. The pastor appealed his win to have the judge's statements removed.
"The district court did suggest in passing that Lively might have violated international law, but it did so without any meaningful analysis. This suggestion is plainly dictum," Judge Bruce M. Selya wrote for the court of appeals. "As a result, it should not be accorded any binding effect in future litigation between the parties."
Horatio G. Mihet, Lively's lead attorney from the nonprofit Liberty Counsel, told the Globe that part of the ruling is key.
"We would have preferred for the Court of Appeals to actually strike the statements from the court's record," Mihet told the newspaper Tuesday. "We got the next best thing which is a very clear ruling from the First Circuit that Judge Ponsor's statements have no legal effect whatsoever and cannot be used in any future litigation."