While you won’t see an advertisement featuring a pig saying “I’m ME, not MEAT.” on a Metro train, you just might see it making an appearance in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, along with other groups, announced Wednesday they are suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The groups say WMATA's ad policies violate the First Amendment.
Metro has rejected ads including an ad by the ACLU that features the First Amendment written in several languages, a PETA ad encouraging people to go vegan, a Carafem ad for a medicated abortion pill and an advertisement for right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous’ new book.
Metro originally ran the advertisements for Yiannopoulous’ book but pulled them a few days later after receiving negative feedback from riders.
Current Metro guidelines, established in 2015 following a controversy concerning anti-muslim advertisements, prohibit “support or oppose an industry position or industry goal without any direct commercial benefit to the advertiser,” and ads “intended to influence public policy,” among others.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU asks that Metro run the rejected ads in stations and on trains and buses. The lawsuit claims the advertising guidelines are in violation of the First and 14th amendments and violate free speech rights, are arbitrarily enforced and are unconstitutionally vague.
“This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property,” said Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU-DC and lead counsel in the case. “The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.”
WMATA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.