ACLU files lawsuit against City of Bedford, says yard signs law violates man’s political expression

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BEDFORD, Ind. — The southern Indiana city of Bedford faces a lawsuit from a resident who says its new yard signs law infringes on his political expression.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court on behalf of Samuel Shaw. Shaw says he had several political signs in his yard before receiving a letter from the city last month telling him he was violating the law. He says he removed the signs after the city told him if he didn't, he would have to pay $300-per-day penalty.

The ACLU claims the ordinance has several provisions that violate the Constitution, including:

  • A provision prohibiting permanent non-governmental signs on residential properties and imposing an unconstitutionally vague and content-based definition of what constitutes a "temporary" sign;
  • A content-based provision imposing temporal and quantity restrictions that depend on whether the sign is advertising a special event, an open house, or the sale or rental of a property;
  • A nonconformity provision that incorporates content-based restrictions from a prior ordinance that are unconstitutional; and
  • A provision that limits the number of signs with an unregulated message to one outdoor sign, and one small sign in a resident's window.

"The Supreme Court recently held that the kind of regulations that the City of Bedford has instituted violate the First Amendment of the Constitution," said Jan Mensz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney. "The Ordinance's limitation of one general use sign on a resident's lawn is a particularly oppressive during election time when citizens wish to voice their support and opposition for multiple candidates and political issues."

The lawsuit can be viewed here.

City officials didn't immediately respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment. Bedford is about 25 miles south of Bloomington.

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