ACLU sues WMATA over political advertisement ban

Four unlikely allies are suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for its policy against political and issue-oriented advertisements.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, right-wing political commentator Milo Yiannopolous and the health network Carafem filed suit Wednesday against WMATA, which runs the Metro rail and bus system in the District, in U.S. District Court claiming the agency’s rejection of their proposed ads violated the First Amendment, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The ads advocated for a wide array of ideas and products that WMATA deemed too political or controversial to run, including Carafem’s ad for an abortion pill, Yiannopolous’ autobiography “Dangerous,” PETA’s promotion of veganism and an ACLU’s ad with featured First Amendment written out in different languages, according to the Journal.

In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising policy to prohibit issue-based ads, including political, religious and advocacy advertising in its spaces after a pro-Israel group sought to purchase ad space for cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, cartoons that earlier been linked to a shooting in Texas, the Washington Post reported at the time.

WMATA told the New York Times in a statement that it “intends to vigorously defend its commercial advertising guidelines, which are reasonable and view-point neutral.”

Earlier this year, Yiannopolous’ ad was posted in Metro rail stations for 10 days before being taken down after rider complaints, according to the Journal.

“I think PETA is deranged and I have been dismayed, to put it lightly, by positions the ACLU has taken in the past,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement to the Times. “But on this issue we are all united: it is not for the government to chase so-called ‘controversial’ content out of the public square.”

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