Three Michigan Municipalities Agree to Protect Free Speech Rights of Their Residents

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
September 22, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU Charges Political Sign Ordinances Violate First Amendment

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today that several municipalities in western Michigan have agreed not to enforce ordinances that violate the First Amendment by limiting the rights of individuals to display political signs on their private property.

Most recently, after the ACLU informed Lincoln Township, St. Joseph Township and the city of Allegan that their ordinances are not in compliance with the law, all three municipalities agreed not to enforce them and conveyed their intention to review and amend the ordinances at a future date.

“We’re gratified that these cities understand the seriousness of this issue and have responded so quickly to the ACLU’s notice,” said Jim Rodbard, president of the ACLU’s Southwest Michigan Branch and a Kalamazoo resident. “The importance of free speech, particularly during a political season, must outweigh notions of aesthetics, which appear to drive many of these ordinances.”

The ACLU of Michigan has previously filed lawsuits challenging similar ordinances. Most recently, on September 16, the ACLU obtained a temporary restraining order against the city of Grosse Pointe Woods under which a resident was charged for having a Kerry-Edwards sign in her front yard more than 30 days prior to the election. The same city allowed a “Support Bush – Support the Troops” sign to be posted across the street. The ACLU brought another successful challenge in 1996 against a sign ordinance in Warren. Currently, the ACLU is considering lawsuits in other municipalities.

“It makes absolutely no sense for a city to decide a citizen may speak about a political issue 30 days before an election but not 31 days before an election,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss. “Our most fundamental right is the right to speak out on issues of public importance. This is a right that local governments must protect, not offend.”

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