(RightWing.org) – A pro-life activist has won a significant legal victory after a federal appeals court ruled they’d been unfairly treated. The ruling reverses an earlier federal judgment. It also highlights how Washington, DC, enforced the law selectively in favor of activists officials agree with.
On August 15, a panel of judges from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the District of Columbia had used the law to punish pro-life activists while refusing to deal with Black Lives Matter protesters. The two activists, Erica Caporaletti and Warner DePriest, were arrested in August 2020 while chalking “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic. The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America, who had jointly organized a pro-life rally the two had been attending, sued the District of Colombia, alleging that while Caporaletti and DePriest had been arrested for illegally writing a slogan on the sidewalk, Black Lives Matter protesters who had also illegally written slogans had escaped punishment.
They said that “The only difference between the Plaintiffs’ desired mural and the other permitted — and permanent — murals is the content of the message,” and protested that the District had used the law to “silence disfavored speech.”
A federal court initially rejected the lawsuit, but last Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Appeals means their case has been found valid, and they now have approval to take it forward. The three-member panel ruled that allegations the law had been selectively enforced were plausible and said, “The government may not enforce the laws in a manner that picks winners and losers in public debates.”
The unanimous opinion added that choosing to only prosecute activists the government doesn’t support undermines the First Amendment’s protection of free speech — the same laws should be applied to everyone. Now the District will have to convince a court that it’s capable of enforcing the law fairly.
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