The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of marijuana advocates claiming its First Amendment rights were violated when permission was denied to hold a rally on public property.
The Higher Society of Indiana, Inc. is an organization that advocates for the legalization of marijuana. The group has held rallies to bring awareness to its cause throughout the state, including one held in May in Lafayette on the steps of the Tippecanoe county courthouse. After that first rally the group was told it was no longer allowed access to the public property for future rallies.
"The First Amendment simply denies government the power to pick and choose which groups it allows to gather on public property," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. "You cannot suppress some speech without putting all speech at risk."
According to the complaint, The Higher Society of Indiana initially contacted city officials to get permission to hold the rally but was directed to the office of the county commissioners, which then gave approval for the May event. After the success of the first rally the society planned another rally for this month. The Tippecanoe county attorney contacted the group to inform them permission for the first rally was a mistake. The attorney claimed the office granted the permission under the assumption that permission had already been granted by the city, even though that permission should only have been granted by the county. County policy requires any rallies held at the courthouse must be sponsored by at least one county commissioner or must gain the approval of all three commissioners.
“We believe this rule requiring "commissioner sponsorship" in order to assemble on courthouse grounds is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution,” says David Phipps, co-executive director of the Higher Society of Indiana, “The only thing this rule accomplishes is the censorship of the American people. It prevents any group the county does not approve of from speaking out and practicing their right to assemble.”
The ACLU of Indiana argues that the society has the constitutional right to hold a rally on public property without the expressed approval or permission of the governing body through the First Amendment right to assembly and the right to free speech.
The suit asks that the court issue a permanent injunction preventing the Tippecanoe county commissioners from enforcing its sponsorship and approval policy, thereby allowing the Higher Society to rally at the courthouse. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division at Lafayette.