A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled unconstitutional a sign ordinance in Gilbert, Arizona that restricted signs directing readers to the time and location of a local church’s upcoming services. Because the town needlessly imposed more stringent restrictions on such temporary directional signs than it did on political campaign signs or signs with an ideological message, the Court ruled, the regulation violated the First Amendment.
At issue was whether the distinction between campaign signs, ideological signs and temporary directional signs amounts to a distinction on the basis of the sign’s content, generating strict scrutiny from the Court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously said no, that the town’s rule applied to certain categories of sign regardless of the content. The Supreme Court reversed that decision in an opinion written by Justice Thomas.
Here is an excerpt from the opinion:
Justices Kagan, Breyer, and Ginsburg disagreed that the regulation warranted strict scrutiny, but agreed with the outcome of the case. The regulation, Kagan wrote, “does not pass strict scrutiny, or intermediate scrutiny, or even the laugh test.”
You can read the court’s opinion here.