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In a decision to be announced at a special public conference on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has filed a First Amendment law review request in the county of Clark to challenge a city ordinance banning “offensive” items such as the rainbow flag and a U.S. flag.
In June of this year, the ordinance was unanimously passed by the Clark City Council by a 10-2 vote by the majority of elected officials. The ban was introduced by two members of the council who had sponsored the previous municipal law which allowed the display of the rainbow flag in any public public place. It was designed to be a way for elected officials to send a message during a tense political moment. Unfortunately, the city’s “unprecedented” and controversial ordinance is much more expansive than that previous ordinance.
The ACLU says its staff has reviewed a wide range of materials supporting the bill, including a video of a protest against the ban. But the ACLU points out that the ordinance itself only prohibits “offensive” speech and not protected speech and claims the “offensive” flag and rainbow flag are speech protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU wants to know why Clark County’s city government would restrict a group of citizens from free speech.
“We believe that Clark County’s ordinance is unconstitutional,” said Rachel Meeropol, director of the ACLU’s Nevada office. “Our constitutional rights extend to everyone. Our elected officials should not be subject to the whims or whimsical whims of elected officials.”
But Clark County Council chairwoman Barbara Anderson’s office has told the ACLU that the mayor is responsible to enforce the ordinance regardless. “If you think a municipal ordinance is unconstitutional, give the mayor the keys,” Anderson said. “The ordinance is our law.”
As the ACLU’s Meeropol noted, this is a dangerous precedent. The First Amendment gives citizens a right to public protest but the law is the one that is written.
“The First Amendment was designed as a tool for citizen groups to
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