Supreme Court to government: No, ‘good intentions’ don’t give you a license to censor speech

Via Huffington Post:

Today, the Supreme Court issued a momentous First Amendment decision. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, a unanimous Court invalidated a town sign code that subjected certain signs to harsher restrictions than others, depending upon what messages they conveyed. In doing so, it made plain that such “content-based” restrictions on speech are presumptively unconstitutional and must undergo strict judicial scrutiny.

The facts: The town of Gilbert has a sign code that restricts the size, duration and location of temporary signs. Under the sign code, the Good News Community Church’s temporary signs promoting church services are subjected to far greater restrictions than temporary signs promoting political, ideological and various other messages. That is, the sign code facially discriminates on the basis of the content of the messages communicated by the signs.

The First Amendment broadly prohibits the enactment of any law “abridging the freedom of speech.” It makes no exception for certain messages, ideas or subject matter, nor does it insulate legislation enacted with supposedly benevolent intentions. The Supreme Court has properly recognized the danger presented by laws that regulate speech based on its communicative content, holding that they are presumptively unconstitutional unless the government demonstrates, with reliable evidence, that they are narrowly tailored to compelling government interests.