Pro-life group wins fight with city

By Ron Strom

After feeling the heat of a federal civil-rights lawsuit, a California town that passed an ordinance prohibiting the flying of large aerial banners within its city limits has repealed the rule, thereby allowing a pro-life group to continue towing huge images of aborted babies above thousands of beach tourists.

As reported by WorldNetDaily, on Oct. 1, the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach in the central district of California on behalf of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and its executive director, Gregg Cunningham, asking the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and to enjoin its enforcement.

One of CBR’s aerial banners flies above a shoreline.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform began a campaign to show the result of abortion by driving hundreds of miles of Los Angeles freeways in trucks with billboard-sized photos of aborted babies on every side. This year, the organization expanded the campaign to include giant banners pulled by planes above heavily populated areas such as beaches. Aerial banners are a common form of advertising in the beach cities of Southern California. The organization also used the flying billboards in the Boston, Cape Cod and Miami areas.

According to the lawsuit, the new ordinance is unconstitutional because it totally bans a certain form of speech and prohibits an effective medium of communication.

On Sept. 16, the city passed the ban on all aerial displays, including the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s banners, above or within the boundaries of the city. On Oct. 16, the date the law was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Alicemarie Stotler signed a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the ordinance until an injunction hearing that was held on Nov. 1.

According to a statement from the Thomas More Law Center, at the injunction hearing, the judge continued the restraining order until Dec. 6 because the city wanted additional time to consider arguments presented by plaintiffs in the case. Subsequently, on Nov. 18, the Huntington Beach City Council held an emergency meeting and voted to repeal the ordinance.

Said Robert Muise, associate counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, “We are pleased that the city acted quickly to repeal its ordinance. However, they didn’t have much of a choice – if they didn’t do it, we are confident that the judge would have. It’s unfortunate that the city had to spend taxpayers’ money in this litigation. This law should have never been passed in the first place.”

According to Huntington Beach Councilman Ralph Bauer, the aerial banner issue began with noise complaints from city residents and culminated in the passage of the ban. Bauer, who voted against the ordinance, acknowledged that some on the city council mentioned the anti-abortion banners in arguing in favor of the prohibition.

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