Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ninth Circuit Hears Public Speech Flyer Case

I found this story to be rather interesting.

A three-judge panel will hear argument on behalf of Regina Rederford, who along with fellow Oakland, California, city employee Robin Christy posted a flyer announcing the start of an informal employee group promoting "the natural family, marriage, and family values." That followed a general e-mail to city employees announcing formation of a pro-homosexual employee association.

Plaintiff attorney Richard Ackerman of the Pro-Family Law Center says his clients' flyer said nothing more than that the Good News Employees Association would be a "forum for people of faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day with respect for the natural family, marriage, and family values."

The flyer was deemed as using "homophobic speech" and promoting "sexual-orientation-based harassment," and barred from posting, by Oakland city officials. U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker upheld their action in 2005, ruling that no First Amendment race, gender, or religion rights were violated.

Ackerman says he will argue to the contrary today, making the case that the terms "natural family, marriage, and family values" could just as easily be used by same-sex advocates, and cannot be proven to amount to discrimination.

It sounds like Ackerman is claiming the decision to remove the flyer was "content-based" and violates the plaintiffs rights to free speech.

I'm not sure they can win this one, even if the restriction was content-based. It sounds like an employer-employee decision, and employers have wide latitude in handling such issues. Still, it will be interesting to see how this turns out.