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Does Your City or State’s Sign Regulations Violate the Constitution?

Civil Rights and Liberties By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2018/01/09 at 09:25am

In 2015 the Supreme Court struck down the sign ordinance of the small town of Gilbert, Arizona. In that case, a pastor of a local church sued to overturn the town’s regulations of signs that preferred specific types of signs over the church’s signs. The Supreme Court agreed with the pastor and in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, it held that when a sign ordinance is not content neutral, i.e. when what is printed on the sign will have some effect on whether or not it is allowed or given special treatment, then the ordinance must meet the high burden of strict scrutiny. In order to meet that threshold, the government will need to show a compelling governmental interest.

Even though the Reed opinion was decided over two-years ago, many cities, counties, and states have failed to update their various sign regulations to comply with the decision. Indeed, many statutes remain on the books that prefer some types of signs over others. This hurts many different groups of people, ranging from political candidates, realtors, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and of course, churches.

It is important that local and state governments act promptly to update their statutes and ordinances to comply with their duties under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If they fail to do so, then aggrieved parties can bring a lawsuit to enforce their freedom of speech rights. Harvey & Binnall is proud to represent parties in such litigation in courts throughout the United States.

civil rights, constitutional law, First Amendment, freedom of speech, political law