GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A judge has ruled that the Portland International Airport has to accept an anti-logging ad from an environmental organization.
The ruling was handed down Thursday by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Pro Tem Eric J. Neiman in Portland. The ruling finds that while free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution make room for government bodies to refuse political ads, the Oregon Constitution does not.
The ad was sought by Oregon Wild as part of a campaign to defeat legislation to increase logging on federal timberlands in western Oregon to help timber counties.
“We are pleased to be vindicated that the Port of Portland, like any other government agency, has to obey the constitution,” Oregon Wild conservation director Steve Pedery said.
The airport argued that it accepted no political ads, so it did not have to accept the one from Oregon Wild.
“We are still looking at it internally and deciding our next steps,” airport spokeswoman Martha Richmond said.
The ad depicted a large postcard showing a logged-over hillside and reading: “Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut.”
“The Oregon Constitution provides greater free speech protection than the federal Constitution does in a number of areas, and this is just one of them,” said Dave Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which represented Oregon Wild in the case. “In general, government agencies are not allowed to distinguish between different types of speech based on the content of the speech. It’s not enough in Oregon for government to just be viewpoint-neutral and say certain types of speech cannot be made in a public space.”
An ACLU volunteer attorney will file a proposed order with the court next week on terms for running the ad, said Dave Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which represented Oregon Wild in the case. However, that could be delayed if the airport appeals.
A similar case involving ads the Karuk Tribe wants to put on Tri-Met buses is pending in the Oregon Supreme Court.