U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled Thursday on a civil rights action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and two individuals. His order essentially puts enforcement of Boise’s panhandling law on “hold.”
In September we noted the lonely position of Councilor Lauren McLean for “Being the voice for democracy, fair play, and equal rights” when she voted against Boise’s anti-panhandling ordinance which was passed by the rest of the council.
The GUARDIAN also opposed the ordinance, noting it was clearly aimed at one segment of the population while providing for exemption to other groups such as the “fill the boot” charity run by firefighters. Equal protection is required of all laws under the U.S. Constitution.
Lodge noted Boise’s ordinance violates First Amendment free-speech protections writing,“The purpose of the ordinance is to suppress particular speech related to seeking charitable donations and treats this speech content different than other solicitation speech.”
“Freedom of speech may be the most important right to protect in order to maintain our republic. The court is mindful that citizens asking or even begging other citizens for money can make the person being asked feel uncomfortable and imposed upon. But in public places, all citizens must tolerate speech they don’t agree with, find to be a nuisance, insulting or outrageous,” according to Judge Lodge.
Our May advice to the City mothers and fathers still stands: “FAGETTABOUTIT! There are already enough laws on the books to cover disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, obstructing traffic, etc. When a law is aimed at a specific segment of society, if the trigger is pulled it can backfire.”
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