The ACLU of Massachusetts today delivered a letter to the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association urging cities and towns to suspend any local policies that prohibit the display of political signs on private property and restrict political speech. The ACLU asks the Association to distribute the letter to its members.
As stated in the letter, the ACLU has become aware that several Massachusetts municipalities have ordinances restricting residents’ ability to display signs, including political signs, on private property in residential neighborhoods. Some of these ordinances limit the period before and after an election during which residents may place signs of support or opposition on political or social issues on private property.
“This letter is to remind you that, under the U.S. Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, cities and towns may not impose unreasonable restrictions on political speech nor impose content-based restrictions on the display of signs unless such restrictions are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest,” ACLU attorneys write in the letter. “If you have an ordinance restricting residents’ ability to post political signs in their yards, windows, vehicles, or other pieces of private property, we urge you to discontinue enforcement of the law and to repeal it.”
The letter to municipalities follows two recent ACLU victories for free speech. On April 12, a federal district court permanently blocked the City of Holyoke from enforcing its unconstitutional ordinance prohibiting “temporary” lawn signs on private property in the city during three months of the year and prohibiting bumper stickers all year round. In March, the Scituate Board of Selectmen voted to suspend enforcement of a local ordinance limiting the placement of political signs on private property.