Court upholds Oregon constitutional protections for freedom of speech, bars Port of Portland from rejecting anti-clearcutting ads on political grounds
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Court of Appeals today upheld a ruling barring the Port of Portland, which manages the Portland Airport, from rejecting advertising on political grounds. The ruling comes in a case brought in 2013 by a coalition of conservation organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) over the airport’s refusal to accept an anti-clearcutting advertisement in the airport.
“We are pleased that Oregon’s courts again ruled in favor of free speech and expression,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. “The message to the Port of Portland, and other public agencies like TriMet, is clear: You’ve lost multiple times now. Stop squandering taxpayer dollars and endangering free expression rights with your continual litigation on this well-settled issue. Our state constitution allows each Oregonian to choose for themselves what to read, see, or hear. It is not the government’s job to make those decisions for us.”
The tourism-themed ad sought to draw attention to weak forestry laws in Oregon that fail to protect people and the environment as well as several proposals in 2013 that aimed to increase logging on federal public lands. The ad’s subject is still timely, three years after it was first proposed. Just this week, the House Committee on Natural Resources in Congress passed HR 2936, a bill that would mandate two-and-a-half times current logging levels in western Oregon forests managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
“This is a victory for free speech and a victory for the environment,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of the conservation group Oregon Wild. “The Port of Portland will no longer be able to help the timber industry in greenwashing Oregon’s weak forestry laws. “We plan to submit a new ad to the Port of Portland and the airport immediately to make sure Oregonians and visitors understand the threats now facing public lands and forests.”
The original ad was part of a statewide campaign funded by Oregon Wild, The Sierra Club, Audubon Society of Portland, and the Center for Biological Diversity. It features a post-card like design and a photograph of a clearcut in Oregon’s Coast Range, with the tag line “Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut!” A version of the ad ran without controversy in the Eugene Airport in 2013.
Copies of the ads, as well as more information about proposals to expand clearcutting in western Oregon, can be found at www.ClearCutOregon.com.