Tuesday, September 27

Appeals court rules that ban on portable signs in Fort Myers, Florida violates First Amendment

Adam Lacroix, a “street preacher’ decided to challenge a Fort Myers Beach ordinance after he was cited in December of 2020 for carrying a “portable sign” to spread religious messages to those around him in accordance with an ordinance that was put in place by the Town of Fort Myers Florida.

The ordinance specifically prohibits twenty-four different types of signs but outright banned portable signs. The ordinance also allowed for exemptions in certain cases like “real estate/open house signs, garage sale sales, and temporary signs.”, but did require prior permit approval from the Town of Fort Myers.

The appeals court did however agree that the ban is “content-neutral” and wrote:

“The rich tradition of political lawn signs perhaps is surpassed only by America’s history of marches and rallies dotted with handheld signs and placards of every imaginable description and covering every conceivable political message. Images of demonstrators holding portable signs immediately spring to mind: the March on Washington, the Women’s March, the 2000 presidential election protests in Dade County and Tallahassee, the Black Lives Matter protests in nearly every city in the country, the Tea Party protests, the Women’s Suffrage March, and many more. All of them involved people carrying portable signs. And all were easy to create and customize. If the Town’s prohibition on carrying all portable signs were to stand, all kinds of expressive speech protected by the First Amendment would be barred.”

Because the ban on portable signs is “content-neutral”, the court stated:

“The ban on these signs leaves the residents of Fort Myers Beach without an effective alternative channel of communication; it very likely violates the First Amendment”

The case is Lacroix vs. Town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and is filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 21-10931

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