Indiana Referral Service for Women in Need too ‘controversial’ for City Buses

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the city of Fort Wayne’s public transportation company for refusing to accept an ad from a pro-life health care referral service for women in need. Citilink denied Women’s Health Link’s request simply because its website contains information on “controversial issues,” the city-run company says. 

“No one deserves to be silenced simply for having a viewpoint that city officials don’t favor,” said Litigation Counsel Rory Gray. “When the city creates an opportunity for community advertising, it cannot single out pro-life organizations for censorship. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their political or religious beliefs.”

Women’s Health Link is a free referral resource for women seeking physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health care. Last October, Women’s Health Link asked to place advertising cards in the interior of Citlink’s buses that contained a picture of a young woman and the tagline “You’re Not Alone” along with the center’s contact information.

Citilink denied the requests twice because Women’s Health Link is associated with Allen County Right to Life, a pro-life organization, and because Citilink officials said that the Women’s Health Link website discusses “controversial issues.” Citilink has permitted many non-profit and government organizations to place public service announcements with various messages in the interior of their buses, including the state of Indiana, Parkview Health, and the United Way.

The complaint filed in Women’s Health Link v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp. with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division, explains that Citilink’s advertising policies give “officials unbridled discretion to accept or reject private expression protected by the First Amendment.” The policies violate Women’s Health Link’s “fundamental rights, including its right to freedom of speech and freedom of association,” the complaint states.

“The city’s stated reasons for denying this ad do not pass constitutional muster,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope Citilink will change course by permitting our client’s advertisement and revising its policies so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

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