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Do tattoos have free-speech protection? Court hears 1st Amendment fight. What do you think?


TalkBackLAOne man's flesh-bound free speech is another's idea of unhealthful mutilation and underclass war paint. In the city of Hermosa Beach and other upscale oceanfront communities, tattooing is effectively banned for what city officials say is a risk to the public's health, safety and welfare.

John Anderson, owner of the Yer Cheat'n Heart tattoo parlor in Gardena, said he thinks his store is in a seedy neighborhood and sought to move to a vacant storefront in Hermosa Beach in 2006. His request to open a parlor there was denied on grounds that zoning laws don't allow tattooing anywhere in the city. He sued in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging suppression of his 1st Amendment right to impart artistic expression on customers' bodies.

The tattoo artist lost the first round of his legal challenge in 2008 when a federal judge deemed tattooing "not sufficiently imbued with elements of communication" to qualify as constitutionally protected speech.

Anderson took his case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this month, and some constitutional law scholars predict the outcome could be different in what would be the first — and potentially precedent-setting — federal appellate decision on whether the tattoo artist is engaged in 1st Amendment-protected activity when designing and applying custom tattoos.

Anderson blames his failure in the lower court on the persistent impression, especially among older Americans, that tattoo parlors attract an unsavory clientele.

Read Times legal affair writer Carol J. Williams' full story here. She talks about the case in the video above.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

 
Comments () | Archives (102)

This one is simple.

Tattoos may be art, but the City has never made anyone leave its borders for displaying a tattoo. Nor is the City imposing any content restrictions on the artist. There is no restriction on people making henna tattoos or painting their bodies, or anyone else's body, with temporary inks or dyes.

The zoning law is completely content neutral.

The artist provides a service much like cosmetic surgeons do, and the restriction is utilitarian, not speech-limiting. Cities may legitimately regulate the use of property for almost any reason at all.

The artist's real beef seems to be with officials in Gardena who allow 'seedy' and unsafe conditions. That seems to be his reason for leaving.

Just my opinion.

Bottom line it is a business. With all the health codes and inspections tattooing has come a long way since the 70's. All you have to do, is watch tv or cable, and all walks of life have tattoos. This city and cities that have banned tattoo shops are 30 years behind in their thinking. Upscale hotels in Vegas have tattoo shops inside their main lobby areas. Why??? Because it is a draw, plus the shops pay rent. In these cities they would also pay taxes and bring people into their areas. The day of the crook and biker only getting ink is gone. More people driving imported vehicles are getting them now.

Permanent or not, denim once carried a stigma. Today it has none.
Besides some people want permanent.
Look around tattoos are mainstream.
Wake up people.

Are massage parlors allowed in these cities????

I am from the Great Depression generation and we didn't have money for tattoos, but also grew up hearing only ex-convicts and drunken sailors had them. My religious mother preached our bodies were "temples" given to us by God and we should respect them, watch what we put into them (like alcohol and drugs) and respect the exterior. She would say that the beautiful skin we were given at birth should not be desecrated, be used as a scratch pad by what she called "second rate artists". But now my grandnieces and nephews are all scarred for life with tattoos, some addicted to getting more and more. So I am considered an "old fogy" by them for not being in awe of their body "art".

This is just a case of an antiquated view of tattoos and tattoo parlors. It's not the drunken sailors and prostitutes of yesteryear, we are just art enthusiasts using our bodies as the canvas for our collections. We're law abiding, income earning, responsible adults who just happen to collect art in a different way than some.
Keep up the fight John Anderson!

Seriously people, where is this world going... Down the crapper... I actually just received a tattoo on Friday, I am a young tax paying american, with a 50 hour a week job, mortgage, and property taxes. Am I that unsavery? Yes there are thugs that get tattoos, but I would say majority of tattooing is done to military personnel are we now considering them to unsavery too? Hmmm... Very strange to me, and I just don't understand! Tattooing is an art form, and a way for people to express themselves, people need to get off their freakin high horses and chill out!

IF YOU THINK BY HAVING A TATOO IS THE "IN" THING TO DO, THINK AGAIN. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO GET A JOB WITHOUT HAVING TO WAR LONG SLEEVES? HOW ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE GETTING SERVED AT A FINE RESTAURANT AND SOMEONE WITH A DAGGER GOING THROUGH A SKULL TATOO SERVES YOU? I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL NOT LONG AGO AND A YOUNG NURSE CAME IN TO ASK ME QUESTIONS WITH TATOOS ALL OVER HER ARMS, NEEDLESS TO SAY I ASKED FOR ANOTHER NURSE. HOW WOULD I KNOW IF THIS PERSON DID NOT HAVE SOME KIND OF DISEASE, LIKE HEP C OR AIDS, I DONT KNOW HER. WHAT KIND OF A MESSAGE IS THIS SENDING OUR KIDS. WAIT TILL YOUR OLDER AND THAT SKIN IS WRINKLED AND OLD, SEE THEN IF YOU DONT START TO REGRET IT AND THOSE YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOW SHOWING. MOM OR DAD HAVE THEM SO THEY MUST BE O.K. HAVE SOME CLASS, NOTHING IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THEN A CLEAN BODY INSIDE AND OUT. GET RIGHT WITH THE LORD AND YOUR FAITH, FOR THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!!!!!!

I am a 40 year old mother of four who just got my first tattoo and it has hugely significant meaning for me. I waited for a long time to get it, and I designed something with layers of meaning. It not only is a beautiful piece of art, but everyday it serves to remind that I am living with a purpose.
There was nothing seedy about the artist, the location, or the tattoo.
As one friend said "For most of human existence, ritual decoration such as a tattoo has been personal, spiritual, and relational."
A pic and explanation of my tattoo is on my blog:
http://whenlifegivesyoumelons.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/on-blogging-and-my-tattoo/

I think that tattoos ARE a freedom of speech. Are we going to stop protesters who hold up signs on street corners?? Those posters clearly display the protester's opinions. Therefore, they ARE protected by the 1st amendment. Tattoos are a display of the person's beliefs/opinions/whatever. Why wouldn't a person who has a tattoo be allowed to have them? To me, it's clearly a violation of the first amendment.

It may be free speech expression regarding an individual's choice to have one and to display it openly but there is no speech connection to business zoning laws. This should easily lose at every court level.

So if you torture kittens to death for porn, that's protected First Amendment speech...

...but tattoos are a bigger threat?

this is the same as racist would be tattooing is an art and many people collect art in different forms you can have seedy people anywhere when it comes down to it if you look at tattoo parlors they are at almost all beach cities and it seems nobody else has issues with this so why would Hermosa beach i lived and worked in Hermosa for years and have full sleave tattoos as well as a lot of people that do in that city there are more bars than normal there and they dont have an issue with that but they think that a tattoo parlor will make it bad for the city that is ridicules that is racist from what i see.


Of Course Tattoo parlors are not seedy!!! Thats why they are always conveniantly located right next door to pipe shops!

"In the city of Hermosa Beach and other upscale oceanfront communities, tattooing is effectively banned for what city officials say is a risk to the public's health, safety and welfare."


If cities are allowed to ban tattoo shops from their cities on the basis of a "risk to the public's health, safety, and welfare", then they should also be allowed to ban plastic surgeons and abortion clinics. Last time I checked no government agency has the right ban either of these. My body is just that... MINE!!!

its a personal problem i think, any public official should not have tattoos, Its disgusting, why een bother to have one, when you get 50-70 years old its all wrinkle and washed out, so why bother.

No person on a political seat should have a tattoo, if they do they shoudl be removed from office. If you want to be a rebel, a tattoo isnt the way to express yourself.

Its an eye sore.


I think tattoos still get the bad, rowdy, outlaw, thuggish, impression(s) to this day..... All though "society" has come a long way.......Tattoos will not be excepted in corporate "America".....no matter how many tattoo reality shows their are on t.v. It is all driven on race, social class, and ignorance....If the gentleman were trying to open a tattoo parlor in a(n) Latino, Black, Asian, or Polynesian Suburb there would be more acceptance.... where the only thing crossing their minds," is there going to be any gang involvement"......Whereas in Hermosa Beaches residents are going to have more racial and non- acceptance of trying to understand the true beauty of art.......
Kalani

The 1st amendment right to the written word and to artistic interpretation, therefore, whether that word be on paper or on flesh should be upheld by the first amendment right.

I have gotten 2 tattoos at Yer Cheatin' Heart. They are awsome! I fully believe that a tattoo is reflection is your own personal style. Tattoos should never be banned, just as art should never be banned. I fully support them in this.

of course they are taking away his right. what a stupid law.... what next, the whole states going to ban it, because they are "profiling" each customer based on the fact that they get a tattoo they are now labeled "unsavory crowd".....

I think it should be 'allowed' NOT all tattoo art is vulgar or rude or even 'gang' like. I've seen some tattoo's on people that are stunningly beautiful. The Chinese would definitely have some issues with this as well since they have some of the most beautiful skin art seen ( some is even preserved in museums) To lump tattoos along with the seedy element that once was the mainstream of the 'bad' crowd is to say that ALL tattoos are belong on prisoners or such people. I've found MOST judges have 'ridiculous' morals and views about the world. The Judicial system NEEDS new blood and YOUNG judges who would bring a whole new set of ideas to the bench. Too many OLD judges bring there OWN set of preconceived notions to cases whether or not they are 'supposed' to be IMPARTIAL and FAIR ! Cases that would STUN any normal person are judged to be not 'sufficient' evidence or 'improperly' handled. When you have INCONTROVERTIBLE evidence what does it matter whether the police or someone got something not quite in the scope of the antiquated laws.

So by me having tattoos does that mean I am

"unsavory clientele."

Thanks!..


Not everyone who want a tattoo or already has one is underclass........

Tattoos in the Armed Forces have a long and colorful tradition amongst those who have served their country. In fact millions of Americans have served in the Armed Forces either as active service personnel, reservists, not to mention the war veterans. Many of them have gotten tattoos as a constant reminder that they belonged to a particular unit or platoon, to acknowledge their loyalty not only to their unit but also their country, the feeling of camaraderie they felt or even to mark the loss of someone close to them killed while on active duty.
According to studies of tattoos in the armed forces in appears that their popularity seems to be greatest in the Navy, with the Army second, the Marines third and the Air Force last. The style of tattoo designs seems to differ depending on whether the person is in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine Corps.
A recent news report about military tattoos said; “Tattoos are a military tradition.” While there is no order stating this, many service members will argue this point until the end of their contract. To some, tattoos are a big part of the military lifestyle. Some service members will refrain from getting a tattoo, but many more will get inked at least once before leaving
http://www.tao-of-tattoos.com/tattoos-003-military.html

That is not everyone that WANTS

How can anyone, especially a judge, NOT see a tattoo as an element protected by the First Ammendment of the Constitution?! Free Speech protects not just words in a newspaper or words shouted from a street corner, but also art. A tattoo is a form of art, and one that is older than many civilizations around today! Tattooes have been found on the bodies and in pictures of societies as old as the Aztecs, Incans, Myans, and Ancient Egyptians. Heck, the Egyptians used to tattoo Eyeliner on their eyes and Lipstick on their lips! Not all tattooes are attractive, and not all those who have tattooes are what we would call the ... most presentable ... of society -- but I happen to think quite a few of the journalists out there today are imbeciles who don't know a single thing they're writing about; and yet, they still have the freedom to keep writing.

Just one more thing ... one more area of PRIVATE lives and PRIVATE business and PRIVATE decisions that the Government is trying to invade.

Remember: Government, like Vampires, exist to drain humanity of Life (i.e. inherent freedoms); and, also like Vampires, can come into our lives only when invited. SO STOP INVITING GOVERNMENT INTO YOUR IDEA OF MY LIFE!

 
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