The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging neighborhood subdivision rules that prohibit residents from displaying certain flags and signs on their property.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of client David Pendery, an Arapahoe County resident in Whispering Pines Metropolitan District #1, according to a news release.
Pendery wants to fly a pride flag at his residence in “solidarity with LGBTQ families like his,” the news release said. He also wants to display a “We believe…” sign encouraging inclusivity and kindness.
“Mr. Pendery has a constitutional right to fly a pride flag and to post a social justice sign on his own property,” Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director, said in the news release.
The metro district’s rules on flag and sign displays in the subdivision “violate the First Amendment and the Colorado Constitution’s guarantee of free expression,” Silverstein said.
The ACLU describes the metro district’s rules as “arbitrary” because some flags and signs are allowed while others are prohibited.
“The metro district has complete discretion over whether to grant or deny approval,” the release said. “There are no written guidelines to prevent censorship on the basis of the subject or viewpoint that the flag or sign communicates.”
Pendery has refrained from displaying the prohibited pride flag and the unapproved social justice sign.
“We immediately felt at home when we moved to the neighborhood last year and formed strong relationships with our neighbors,” Pendery said in the news release. “But it’s incredibly disheartening that the governing body whose primary responsibility is to protect residents’ investments instead chooses to focus its limited resources on violating our right to free speech.”
Angela Elliott, district manager for Whispering Pines, declined to comment Tuesday. The district’s attorneys are working on the lawsuit, she said.
Special districts and homeowners associations “contend that they are private organizations that can restrict speech in ways the government cannot,” according to the ACLU news release. The lawsuit argues that restrictions imposed by the Whispering Pines Metropolitan District #1 on Pendery’s free speech are violations of the First Amendment.
“The Colorado Constitution declares that all persons shall be free to speak out, but almost all new homes are built in subdivisions with rules enforced by HOAs or metro districts that severely restrict the exercise of this constitutional right,” Silverstein said. “The Colorado legislature should step in and enact legislation to make it clear that both HOAs and metro districts cannot forbid residents from posting signs or flags that express their views on social and political issues.”
The ACLU is asking any Colorado residents who’ve received notice that their signs or flags violate HOA or metro district rules to contact the organization at [email protected]
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