The Supreme Court ruled today in Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society that a federal law violated the First Amendment by requiring that recipients of AIDS-related funding adopt explicit policies condemning prostitution. The decision focuses on the constitutional issues that arise when government funds certain programs and imposes limitations on the use of the funds. The Court did not address the specific context of HIV prevention programs overseas or the reasons why such programs might support legalization of sex work or might want to remain neutral on that question.
[The AID opinion was one of three announced this morning; 11 cases, including those with major civil rights and marriage issues, remain to be announced during the Court's sessions next week. Based on authorship patterns, very few of the remaining cases are likely to have majority opinions written by one of the four progressive Justices. It seems likely that Justice Kennedy will write for the Court in Fisher and Windsor, and that the Chief will write in Shelby County and Perry.]
In AID v. Alliance for Open Society, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a 6-2 majority (Kagan recused herself), held that a private group receiving public funds could be barred from using public funds to express views contrary to the government’s point of view, but that it must be allowed to exercise its free speech rights “outside the scope of the federal program.” An NGO, the Court wrote, cannot be forced to “pledge allegiance” to the government’s views in order to qualify for funding.
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