Tattoos now constitutionally-protected speech in Arizona

| September 7 2012
Hannah Thoreson

It’s a great day for freedom in America:  tattoos are now considered constitutionally-protected speech in Arizona.

Clint Bolick, a lawyer for the Goldwater Institute, intervened in what started as a local zoning case in the city of Mesa.

From azcentral:

“This is the first state supreme court in the country to rule that tattooing is a form of protected speech,” Bolick said. “That’s very significant. … We now know that in Arizona tattooing is a protected form of free speech and that’s a victory for freedom.”

Local ordinance in Mesa requires tattoo parlors to seek special permission from the city council in order to operate.  Angel Tattoo had already agreed to several restrictions under a “Good Neighbor” policy, but was denied a permit by council members who feared that the tattoo parlor would attract unsavory elements to the neighborhood.

The business owners claimed in court that their rights were being violated by the city of Mesa under the First and 14th amendments.  Lower courts disagreed, but the Constitution prevailed in the state Supreme Court.

The ruling does not determine the actual issue of whether or not Angel Tattoo will be able to open, but it changes the process going forward.  The city of Mesa will now have to find a very good reason to deny the tattoo shop’s owners their right to free speech.  It seems as though they are unlikely to prevail now, and may be forced to issue a permit to the tattoo parlor.

Some residents are disappointed in the ruling.  They claim there is enough public opposition to the opening of the tattoo parlor to justify continuing to deny them a permit, but that may no longer be a likely outcome in the light of the court’s decision.

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