West Hollywood mayor again says no special events permit for Trump campaign; city attorney says otherwise

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From a Los Angeles Times interview of West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath, by Christina Bellantoni:

[Bellantoni:] So what are the consequences for what you've said to Donald Trump, that he's not welcome in your community? Is the idea that you will say, if he tries to hold an event there, or comes through West Hollywood, you'll say he's not welcome, or is there any consequence attached to it?

[Mayor Horvath:] Well, the consequences can range. I mean, as a city we have historically welcomed campaigns on both sides of the aisle to come to West Hollywood. Again, we're not trying to shut down anyone's speech. But in the past, for example, we were approached by McCain's presidential campaign to host an event in the city and we provided a special events permit, we made certain accommodations to allow that to happen. That's not going to happen for the Trump campaign.

But Michael Jenkins, the West Hollywood city attorney, said in an email:

The City is firmly committed to adhering to constitutional principles when it comes to free expression. If, theoretically, a permit application were to be filed, it would be processed by City staff in a manner consistent with those principles. The City has not instituted a ban of any kind on political speech by anyone.

I then asked him, quoting Horvath's earliest statement,

[S]o, despite the Mayor's statement that,

Notably, City staff received requests to accommodate a McCain for President campaign event some years ago, including the issuance of special event permits. We accommodated those requests, recognizing and respecting the political differences that are present within our community. However, those same courtesies will not be extended to the Trump campaign, and I have already confirmed with our City staff that such actions are well within our right.

the City would indeed approve special event permits for a Trump rally on the same footing as for other political rallies, yes?

He responded, "The City would consider an application from the Trump campaign no differently than from any other campaign." The city attorney's position is consistent with First Amendment law; the mayor's is not.

Cities may indeed impose content-neutral special event permit rules, to make sure that events don't unduly tie up traffic, cause noise late at night and the like. But the city may not discriminate against such events based on the content of the speaker's speech and certainly not based on the viewpoint of such speech. For more, see Tuesday's post on the subject.