A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city of Washington, D.C. discriminated against pro-lifers as it favored Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in the enforcement of its defacement ordinance.
The ruling is a response to a lawsuit filed by The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America against the city after pro-life activists Warner DePriest and Erica Caporaletti were arrested on Aug. 1, 2020, for writing the words “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” with chalk on a public sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood facility.
The lawsuit complained that Washington, D.C. violated the pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights through “viewpoint discrimination” since city police arrested them for writing a pro-life message with chalk but had allowed the city to be widely vandalized in permanent paint with BLM messages just prior.
The appeals court ruling overturns a dismissal of the lawsuit by a lower district court, agreeing with the plaintiffs’ complaint that Washington, D.C. committed viewpoint discrimination.
“The First Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of viewpoint irrespective of the government’s motive. We hold the Foundation has plausibly alleged the District discriminated on the basis of viewpoint in the selective enforcement of its defacement ordinance,” the court wrote.
The court noted that after the highly publicized death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Washington, D.C. “all but abandoned enforcement of the defacement ordinance during the Black Lives Matter protests, creating a de facto categorical exemption for individuals who marked ‘Black Lives Matter’ messages on public and private property.”…