Court was right to ground banners
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an anti-abortion group's plans to fly banners from planes above Oahu.
HONOLULU'S ban on billboards effectively has been extended to the skies by virtue of a federal appeals court decision. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel rejected an anti-abortion group's plans to fly airplanes dragging banners
depicting aborted fetuses over Waikiki's beaches. Tourists and the travel industry can be relieved that the island's beauty and serenity have been preserved.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who said the ban serves "the preservation of the natural beauty of Oahu's environment." Governor Lingle signed into law last year a measure that allows counties to prohibit ads in airspace and waters visible from any public place, even if they are displayed beyond county boundaries.
The authority of counties and the state to prohibit sky banners came into question when the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice in October 2002 proposing deletion of a policy that planes flying lower than 1,000 feet must "understand and obey local and state ordinances that may prohibit or restrict banner tow operations." The FAA came to its senses a year later and allowed the proposed change to expire.
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform still is expected to appeal the ruling, claiming that the ban infringes on its First Amendment rights. Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the court's opinion that banner towing is "neither a common means of speaking nor a distinct and traditionally important form of expression."
The group uses trucks around Honolulu carrying giant photos of bloodied fetuses, and Gregg Cunningham, its director, vows he will "absolutely swamp the state of Hawaii with our trucks, and you're not going to be able to cross the street without seeing one." In doing so, the group will demonstrate that it has alternative methods of carrying its message to the public. The First Amendment is intact.
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