(CN) – Cincinnati’s requirement that advocacy groups have a city sponsor in order to hold events at city hall violates the First Amendment, the 6th Circuit ruled.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes was twice denied access to city hall, where it planned to hold a press conference and rally opposing traffic cameras.
The city claimed it barred the rally and press conference because the events were not sponsored by a city official.
COAST argued that city officials selectively enforced this sponsorship requirement against groups with whom it did not agree.
A federal judge struck down the sponsorship requirement as “unconstitutionally vague” and barred its enforcement.
The Cincinnati-based federal appeals court agreed, saying the requirement “gives complete discretion to council members and department heads to select whom they will sponsor.”
“Without further specificity, this directive offers no meaningful guidance,” Daughtrey wrote.
The court also viewed city hall as a limited public forum, where the government can restrict speech so long as the restrictions don’t discriminate based on viewpoint and are “reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum.”
Daughtrey acknowledged that the sponsorship requirement is facially viewpoint neutral, but said it fails the second prong of the test, as it “bears little relationship to any official duties under the City Charter.”
Although the court rejected the advocacy group’s First Amendment expressive association and equal protection claims, it found adequate reasons for upholding the injunction.
Joining COAST in suing Cincinnati and city officials were WeDemandAVote.com and Chairman Mark Miller.