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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Barring Tattoo Parlor May Violate Free Speech

(CN) - The First Amendment protects tattoo art as an expression of free speech, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled.

Ryan and Laetitia Coleman sued Mesa, Ariz., after the city denied their request to open a tattoo parlor.

Mesa law requires tattoo parlors to be licensed and located at least 1,200 feet from a school, a body-piercing salon or an existing tattoo parlor. It must also be compatible with the surrounding land uses.

The Colemans operated Angel Tattoo in Nice, France, and were trying to open a branch of their business in a Mesa strip mall that also included business suchs as a massage parlor, a hair salon and restaurants.

The Planning and Zoning Board denied the Colemans' request after voicing concerns that the parlor would not be appropriate for the neighborhood. Though the city council agreed to hear the Colemans' case, it also voted no.

The Colemans sued the city for violating their civil rights, but the trial court dismissed their claim, stating that council's decision was a "reasonable and rational regulation of land use."

A new ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals, however, has turned the case turned in the Colemans' favor.

"We hold that obtaining a tattoo, applying a tattoo and engaging in the business of tattooing, are exercises of free speech entitled to protection as a fundamental right under the Arizona Constitution and the United States Constitution," Judge Ann Scott Timmer wrote on the court's behalf.

"Because the Colemans sufficiently alleged claims for violations of their free speech, equal protection and due process rights, the superior court erred by dismissing the complaint without affording an opportunity to develop a factual record," he added.

The appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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