Cincinnati Pro-Life Advocates Worry City Council Bill Would Limit Free Speech
by Steven Ertelt
November 25, 2009
Cincinnati, OH (LifeNews.com) — Local pro-life advocates in Cincinnati, Ohio are concerned that the city council is considering a bill that would ultimately restrict their free speech rights. The proposed ordinance is one of several seen in large cities such as Pittsburgh and Oakland that are targeting pro-life advocates.
Paula Westwood, the executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati tells LifeNews.com that the city council voted "under the radar" last Wednesday for a new ordinance that amends several municipal codes addressing signs.
"The ordinance had quickly passed the Economic Development Committee the night before, rushing it to full council where it failed this first vote, but is expected to pass" the next time it considers the measure, Westwood explains.
"What the public does not know is that past discussions of signage in the Economic Development Committee included much time and testimony regarding those who exercise their free speech rights with signs on social concerns," Westwood said.
While the discussion could affect all sorts of political groups, the local pro-life leader told LifeNews.com pro-life people were specifically under the gun.
"But in the committee hearings, those demonstrating against abortion of babies in front of Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue were specifically targeted. The goal was clear to decrease these demonstrators’ visibility and weaken their message," Westwood said.
Westwood indicates the council changed the bill and that concerns remain because the measure is vaguely worded.
"Now we have a 54-page ordinance, which on the surface focuses only on vendors. Thus with all this text, and despite past committee discussion, free speech signage is not clearly identified and addressed," she said. "If this sign ordinance is supposed to also cover demonstrators, the wording is too vague and too dependent on subjective, personal interpretation."
"The absence of clear guidelines for social justice demonstrators in this proposed sign ordinance could result in haphazard suppression of free speech rights due to disagreement, stereotyping, or bigotry," she warned.
Westwood praised council members Chris Monzel, Leslie Ghiz, and Cecil Thomas for recognizing the importance of clear free speech guidelines.
Right to Life of Cincinnati is asking area residents to contact the city council and urge them and Mayor Mark Mallory to not vote on the city sign ordinance "until clear, written guidelines for social justice demonstrators are included, to ensure equal and just free speech for all."
ACTION: Contact members of the city council by going to https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/council/pages/-3412-/
Related web sites:
Right to Life of Cincinnati – https://www.CincinnatiRightToLife.org
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