ACLU Sues DC Metro For PETA, Milo Yiannopoulos Ads
Aug 10 2017 by Kathy Alvarado
"This case highlights the consequences of the government's attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property", said Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU-DC and lead counsel in the case.
The DC metro rejected the four ads because their advertisement policy forbids ads which intend to "influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions".
The lawsuit, filed today by the ACLU of the District of Columbia and Virginia, argues that parts of the agency's ad policies violate the First Amendment by discriminating against particular ads and advertisers deemed controversial by WMATA officials.
The ACLU is suing Metro for rejecting four "issues-oriented" advertisements, including one that promoted a new book by controversial alt-right writer Milo Yiannopoulos.
The policies were adopted in 2015 following controversy surrounding a set of anti-Muslim advertisements.
According to the complaint, WMATA initially told customers who complained that the ads for unsafe were "consistent with Metro's policy of remaining content-neutral when accepting advertising".
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One notable individual the ACLU is suing on behalf of is former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, whose book was not allowed to be advertised on the train and bus system. The ads were created to provide public information about reproductive health care and abortion care, similar to the way other medical offices advertise their services. Despite the fact that WMATA's own guidelines that allow medical and health-related advertisements are acceptable "if the substance of the message is now accepted by the American Medical Association and/or the Food and Drug Administration"-as mifepristone, the medication in question, is-Carafem's proposed ad was rejected as political content. See the Individual. Go Vegan", banned from advertising with the WMATA".
The ACLU, Carafem - a nonprofit that provides abortion services - and PETA are also plaintiffs in the suit. "If Metro was going to take down every ad where people didn't like the author of a book or director of a movie or owner of a restaurant, where would that stop?"
"Many viewers of the advertisement are aware that the play...contains many passages in which the Scalia character advocates his conservative judicial philosophy", the complaint reads.
Melissa Grant, the chief operations officer for Carafem, said in an interview that the organization had successfully purchased Metro ads twice before guidelines changed in 2015.
The complaint cites a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that held trademarks couldn't be invalidated based on the First Amendment, because the government office isn't in the business of view point discrimination.
By representing Yiannopoulos, Esseks says the ACLU is standing form in their belief that free speech aids in the progression of civil rights movements. Strong opponents keep us honest.