WASHINGTON - Several groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a women's health care group and the company for right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos are suing Metro after their ads were rejected by the transit agency.
The ACLU says Metro rejected their series of ads that displayed the text of the First Amendment in English, Spanish and Arabic. In addition, an ad for an abortion pill and PETA’s “Go Vegan” ads were also turned away by Metro. In June, ads for Yiannopoulos’ new book were first accepted by WMATA, but later removed after complaints from riders.
The lawsuit claims that part of the transit agency’s policies on advertising, which were adopted in 2015, violate the First Amendment.
“This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property,” said Arthur Spitzer, the 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.”
Metro said in a statement:
“In 2015, WMATA’s Board of Directors changed its advertising forum to a nonpublic forum and adopted commercial advertising guidelines that prohibit issue-oriented ads, including political, religious and advocacy ads. WMATA intends to vigorously defend its commercial advertising guidelines, which are reasonable and view-point neutral.”
The lawsuit is seeking for Metro to run the rejected ads in trains, buses and inside its stations while also declaring four sections of Metro’s advertising policies unconstitutional.