Portland International Airport and its manager, the Port of Portland, face a lawsuit after rejecting an anti-logging advertisement deemed to be political in nature. The American Civil Liberties Union backed several Oregon environmental conservation organizations in filing the lawsuit, arguing that the airport cannot turn down the ad as doing so would violate the organizations’ right to free speech under both the United States and Oregon state constitutions. It is unclear whether the suit demands monetary damages.
The advertisement, aimed at protesting federal logging legislation that would purportedly allow millions of acres of forest to be cut down for timber, appears similar to a common picture postcard but depicts barren Oregon landscape that has been devastated by logging. The text reads “Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut!”
A city-owned airport in Eugene accepted the ad after officials cited a prior case in which a state appeals court ruled against Portland’s TriMet transit department for refusing to accept similar ads regarding damming of the Klamath River on political grounds. A spokesperson with one of the ad’s sponsors asserted that a government-operated facility may not reject the advertising “simply because it makes the logging industry and some politicians uncomfortable.” The Oregon Supreme Court is reportedly considering the case, but it had not announced a decision at last report.
Conversely, officials with Portland International Airport argue that the law grants it the authority to reject religious or political advertisements in order to maintain a neutral environment and avoid alienating any visitors. A representative noted that specific locations in the airport do allow political messages, but advertisers must first obtain a permit in order to post there.
The civil litigation system is valuable for private organizations because it allows them to challenge government regulations or decisions they believe to be infringing on their rights. Oregon organizations, businesses or similar entities that believe they have been similarly wronged should consult with a qualified attorney to find out if litigation may benefit them.
Source: Dallas Chronicle, “Portland Airport Sued Over Anti-Logging Ad” No Author Given, Sep. 28, 2013