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Content-neutral restrictions

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Overview Edit

Content-neutral restrictions (also called non-content-based restrictions) regulate speech without regard to its subject matter or the viewpoint conveyed.[1] The Supreme Court has held that the “government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions ‘are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.’”[2] Such content-neutral restrictions may be permissible even when they incidentally affect the content of speech to some degree because, in most cases, such regulations “pose a less substantial risk of excising certain ideas or viewpoints from the public dialogue.”[3]

Examples of content-neutral restrictions that have been held to be constitutional include laws that restrict the distribution of printed materials to prevent litter in a public space[4] or laws that prohibit the use of loudspeakers in order to reduce noise.[5] Facially neutral regulations, however, can be invalid if they have a disproportionate effect on a particular type of speech or expression.[6]

References Edit

  1. Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 54–59 (1994) (full-text) (distinguishing between content-based and content-neutral restrictions).
  2. Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989) (full-text) (quoting Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984)).
  3. Turner, 512 U.S. at 642.
  4. See City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 804-05 (1984) (full-text) (finding that “[t]he text of the ordinance [prohibiting the posting of signs on public property] is neutral — indeed it is silent — concerning any speaker’s point of view. . . . It is well settled that the state may legitimately exercise its police powers to advance esthetic values.”).
  5. Ward, 491 U.S. 781.
  6. Turner, 512 U.S. at 645.

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