Toledo Sign Law Restricts Free Speech, Says ACLU of Ohio

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
December 12, 2006 12:00 am

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Resident Is Threatened With Fines For Displaying Anti-War Signs

One of the signs in Toledo resident Jeffrey Nelson’s front yard.

Another sign in Nelson’s front yard.

TOLEDO, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today urging Toledo city officials to abandon attempts to cite resident Jeffrey Nelson for displaying four anti-war signs in his front yard. Nelson received a notice from the city’s Division of Building Inspection on December 2, 2006 stating that he must remove his signs within 24 hours or risk incurring a fine.

“This law is far too restrictive and clearly violates Mr. Nelson’s right to express his political viewpoints,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “Courts across the nation have affirmed that people have a right to express political views through signs displayed on their property. Time and again, courts have rejected laws that attempt to restrict the number of political signs posted.”

The law specifically prohibits a property owner from exhibiting more than one exterior sign at their residence. The city argued that Nelson’s four exterior signs are a clear violation of this ordinance.

In its letter, the ACLU urged Toledo Law Director John Madigan to resolve the matter without litigation by halting all efforts to cite Nelson. The letter also suggested that the city be prohibited from citing other residents accused of similar violations and requests that Toledo City Council rescind the unconstitutional ordinance as soon as possible.

“All residents should be free to express their opinions on important political issues without fear of censorship from the city. Toledo officials should right this wrong and bring their local laws back in line with the First Amendment,” said Gamso.

The ACLU’s letter is available at:

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