Tattoos, Free Speech, and the Constitution

As Scott Shackford noted in today’s P.M. links, the Arizona Supreme Court on Friday issued its decision in the case of Coleman v. City of Mesa, holding that the process of tattooing is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is the second major legal victory for the tattoo trade in recent years. As I noted in Reason’s January 2011 issue, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in the 2010 case Anderson v. City of Hermosa Beach that “the tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and the business of tattooing are forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment.” In its ruling on Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court took its cues directly from the 9th Circuit, writing:

We conclude that the approach adopted in Anderson is most consistent with First Amendment case law and the free speech protections under Arizona’s Constitution.  Anderson starts with the proposition that a tattoo itself is pure speech. This seems incontrovertible.  “[T]he Constitution looks beyond written or spoken words as mediums of expression,” and the Supreme Court has recognized that the First Amendment protects a range of expressive activity including parades, music, paintings, and topless dancing. [Citations omitted.]

Anderson and Coleman each centered on the use of local regulations to harrass or even eliminate tattoo parlors from the respective municipalities. Since a majority of the judges in each case found tattooing to fall under the protection of the First Amendment, the government regulations in question were therefore subjected to heightened judicial scrutiny. Had either court found that tattoos were not a protected form of speech, the anti-tattoo regulations would have almost certainly survived, since the courts typically defer to the wishes of lawmakers when it comes to judging the fitness of economic regulations. So while these tattoo cases do represent great free speech victories, they also underscore the fact that “mere” economic liberty, such as the right to own and operate a small business free from arbitrary and unnecessary government interference, still receives second-class treatment in court.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It looks like Tanning Mom picked the wrong self-mutilation indulgence. Tat is where it's at. Ink is the stink.

  • Father Jack||

    No one here bothered to cover Gary Johnson's Town Hall meeting? Jebus....

  • ||

    I just realized many of you probably don't know that NutraSweet has the following tattooed on his balls:

    WE LOOM LARGE

  • ||

    The very thought of undergoing such a procedure in said location causes me fainting spells. Surely SF is a visitor from Krypton.

  • ||

    He enjoys the pain. Besides, he wanted the last thing his victims see to be special.

  • SugarFree||

    My balls are tough, like drug behind a car for a mile and they are still supple and delightful tough. I barely felt a thing.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    He also has "EXIT ONLY" on his butt cheeks.

  • ||

    Don't you mean "PROPERTY OF TONY"?

  • Paul.||

    I thought it said "Strike zone"

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm more interested in Warty's body modifications.

    By "interested" of course, I mean terrified.

  • ||

    Cronenberg used him as an inspiration for several movies, including Videodrome and The Fly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm curious: Which stage of the fly are we talking about here?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I assumed he was referring to Geena Davis and Debby Harry.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    some of us are trying to eat dinner

  • ||

    There's no modifications, you choad. I came from the factory that way.

  • SugarFree||

    I told you you wouldn't like what you found if you kept poking around down there.

  • ||

    You know I don't heed warnings. I have to learn for myself. And now I'm insane!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I have the World's Worst Tattoo. About 15 minutes after my friend got his mail-order tattoo kit, I was under the gun. His first tattoo! My girlfriend at the time told me not to put her name in the banner. So I used my cat's name, instead. I will forever have a flaming heart, wrapped in a banner that reads "Lolita" on my chest.

    This is my shame.

  • Ska||

    "Baby, that was my cat's name. I swear!!"

  • BakedPenguin||

    It could be worse.

  • ||

    How did they find my ink???

  • BakedPenguin||

    I took that when you were passed out and sent it in. I didn't think you'd mind.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Good idea? or Great idea?

  • Generic Stranger||

    It's a good idea in that it serves as an example for others of what NOT to do.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    This is incredibly stupid ruling that gets the right result for the wrong reasons. If tattoing is free speech, what the hell isn't? Can the government not regulate Walmart because products purchased at walmart can be used to express yourself?

  • Cytotoxic||

    It's as if we have inalienable rights or something. INSANITY.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The idea that there is an inherent human right to tattoo is laughable. So this is a court-granted right if anything.

    And what the courts giveth the courts can taketh away. So we're all better off sticking to logically defensible rights rather than whichever ones strike our fancy.

  • Paul.||

    Next thing you know, people will be able to contribute money to a political campaign! Money isn't speech!

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Next you'll be telling me that Kochporashunz aren't PEOPLE!!1!!

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Money isn't speech; it's just necessary for mass speech to occur.

    Banning the selling of ink to newspapers infringes the freedom of the press... but no one in their right mind would claim ink is press.

  • Bernieyeball||

    Personally I think all God Fearing Americans should have the Ten Commandments tattooed on their ass at birth. 5 per cheek.
    This would eliminate the need for the righteous among us to demand that they be posted on the Courthouse lawn.

  • Bernieyeball||

    Personally I think all God Fearing Americans should have the Ten Commandments tattooed on their ass at birth. 5 per cheek.
    This would eliminate the need for the righteous among us to demand that they be posted on the Courthouse lawn.

  • Bernieyeball||

    Personally I think all God Fearing Americans should have the Ten Commandments tattooed on their ass at birth. 5 per cheek.
    This would eliminate the need for the righteous among us to demand that they be posted on the Courthouse lawn.

  • Bernieyeball||

    Good grief. I only said it once!

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Commandment Eleven: Thou shalt not triple-post.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    The on-court audio from Murray-Djokovic sounds like something coming out of Warty's basement.

  • SugarFree||

    Has an irate fan tried flinging gluten at Novak yet?

  • ||

    What's the score?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Murray is up 7-6, 7-5 and it's 1-1 in the third.

  • ||

    Excellent.

  • Hugh Akston||

    This is exactly why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

  • ||

    Exactly, Hugh. Your simpering glibness drives all the hot chicks away.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Nice try, jackass. But we all know that it's my aggressive ignorance and offensive body odor that drives the hot chicks away.

  • ||

    I thought it was your incoherent rambling and congenital herpes.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    you forgot the bacne.

  • ||

    AS long as we're all agreed that you simper.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Hugh, I didn't know you were a Marine!

    Simper Fly, bitch!

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Beginning today (September 10, 2012), Maynard James Keenan will provide a column for The Phoenix New Times. He promises to talk about music, of course, but also any other thing that might pique his interest.
    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.c....._times.php

  • ||

    Who?

  • ||

    Oh, good, we get to read Maynard's stupid political opinions. Awesome.

  • Voros McCracken||

    The best thing he ever did:

    Crank 2

  • Paul.||

    I haven't read all the links... what was the reasoning for blocking the parlor in the first place?

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