Liberty and Accessibility

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ron Paul supporter gets help from ACLU

from the Florida ACLU's The Torch news letter
The 2008 presidential election may still seem far off, but fundraisers,
bumper stickers, yard signs and promotional materials of the like are
already popping up across the state.
These symbols of support are intended to increase candidate visibility
and may at times seem voluminous, but they are constitutionally
protected speech that should be free from government interference. At
least that is what 24- year- old Clermont residents Bryan and Leilani
Orr thought. Then, the city threatened to fine them $ 250 for refusing
to remove a political sign from their front yard.
The Orrs placed the sign in their yard to promote their presidential
favorite, Republican Congressman Ron Paul, never thinking it would
cause controversy. When a Clermont Code Enforcement Officer said they
were in violation of the city ordinance requiring candidates and their
campaigns to pay $ 50 before posting a sign, the Orrs pushed back: " I
simply wasn't going to stand idly by while the City stepped on my
rights as a citizen," Bryan said. Orr researched the ordinance and
found that the regulation did not apply to commercial, real estate, or
any signs other than those of political nature. Certain that political
speech is protected by the First Amendment, Bryan called the ACLU's
Central Florida Regional Office and was delighted to hear what they had to say.
" Political speech is the most protected of any speech," Regional
Director Glenn Katon told him. The ACLU sent a demand letter to the
City of Clermont on behalf of the Orrs citing similar ordinances around
the country that were struck down when challenged in court.
Katon left Clermont officials with two choices— end the enforcement of
their unconstitutional city ordinance or prepare to face the ACLU in
federal court.
The City of Clermont's response arrived less than 24 hours later,
stating that the city would not take any action against the Orrs. The
City also said they would continue to review the 1980 ordinance
regarding political signs and make any necessary revisions, inviting
suggestions from the ACLU for revising the ordinance and the permitting
" No one should let government censor them— and when injustice arises,
we all have a duty to stand up and say not here, not to me," Orr said
after receiving the City's response. " I'm glad it's come to a
resolution that our founding fathers would be pleased with."
Once again the Orrs are displaying the sign in their front yard, and
free speech lives to see another day in Clermont.  Bryan Orr stands by
his political sign in his front yard.

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