The New Jersey Supreme Court has declared that large inflatable rats have free speech rights.
In a case that pitted an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local against a central Jersey town, the high court ruled unanimously that the rodent is protected speech under the First Amendment.
"The township's elimination of an entire medium of expression without a readily available alternative renders the ordinance overbroad," Justice John E. Wallace Jr. wrote for the court.
The super-sized rat, sitting on its hind legs and bearing fangs, is a national symbol used by organized labor to signal a labor dispute. It had been blown up and displayed at a 2005 labor event in Lawrence Township until police enforced a law that bans banners, streamers and inflatable signs, except those announcing grand openings.
The township claimed the union's use of the rat was a form of commercial speech, less deserving of First Amendment protections.
The state Supreme Court found that the law wasn't neutral, and therefore was unconstitutional. It said an ordinance "that prohibits a union from displaying a rat balloon, while at the same time authorizing a similar display as part of a grand opening, is content-based."Yay giant ugly rat! I guess
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