[UPDATE BELOW] It's a glorious day for noted Islamaphobe Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Law Center, which filed a lawsuit against the MTA after their pro-Israel advertisement was rejected. You'll recall that Geller and her associates wanted to spread the word that those who oppose Israel are "savages," with an ad that reads, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." But the MTA rejected it because of the word "savage," claiming that it "demeans an individual or group of individuals."
Instead of revising the ad, Geller sued the MTA, ensuring plenty of free advertising in the media. And now Federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer has ruled in Geller's favor. In his 35-page decision, Engelmayer ruled that "whatever weight might be assigned to the governmental interest in banning demeaning speech on the exterior of New York City buses on an even-handed basis, there is no good reason for protecting some individuals and groups, but not others, from such abuse."
And so, Engelmayer wrote, the MTA's "no demeaning” language standard, “as currently formulated, is, therefore, inconsistent with the First Amendment.” According to the Times, it's also a victory for dumb blonde jokes. The ruling states that:
The agency’s standards would still permit ads that contained demeaning language as long as it demeaned people or groups outside of the characteristics or circumstances included in the prohibited list. He even offered examples, like “Blondes are bimbos,” “Lawyers are sleazebags” or “Upper West Siders are elitist snobs.”
Judge Engelmayer noted that the agency’s rules would even allow the use of the word “savage,” the objectionable word in the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s proposed advertisement, as long as it demeaned a group not included in the prohibited list.
On her blog, Geller crows, "Freedom, freedom, freedom ...... the sweet, delicious taste of it. This is a great victory for the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is increasingly threatened in the U.S. in recent years—the Left and Islamic supremacists are doing all they can to rule honest discussion of Islamic jihad violence and Jew-hatred out of the realm of acceptable public discourse. Judge Engelmayer has struck a huge blow against this sinister authoritarian effort and for the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of all our freedoms."
The ruling comes as a pro-Palestinian ad on Metro-North has sparked controversy. Last week Geller,called the MTA "liars", for rejecting her ads but running these, asking, "Why did they reject our pro-Israel ads? Because it was demeaning to savages."
Update: The MTA has just issued this response to the ruling:
The MTA is reviewing a decision issued today by Federal District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer that found the MTA’s “entirely laudable” goal of holding advertisements on public buses to a “standard of civility” violates the First Amendment.
Judge Engelmayer found that an advertisement submitted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) was demeaning to Muslims in “plainly depicting” them as “savages,” and that the MTA correctly concluded that it violated a longstanding “no demeaning” standard for advertisements. That advertising standard, adopted in 1997, prohibits ads that demean a person or group on account of their race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.
However, Judge Engelmayer ruled that the no-demeaning standard violates the First Amendment because as it does not forbid all demeaning ads, but just those ads that demean persons or groups on account of such protected classifications. As Judge Engelmayer noted, these classifications were included “with an eye” toward protecting the groups MTA felt “most likely to be targeted by demeaning ads.”
Judge Engelmayer stated that the ruling “does not impugn in the slightest the motives of MTA and its officials - either those who put the standard into place or those who applied it to the AFDI ad. Quite the contrary: From the testimony and evidence, it is apparent that, in promulgating and applying the no-demeaning standard, MTA has aspired to hold ads on public buses to a standard of civility,” describing this as an ”entirely laudable” goal.
Judge Engelmayer further noted that his ruling leaves the MTA “the latitude to investigate and experiment with alternative mechanisms for using ad space on the exteriors of city buses productively, profitably, and constitutionally, while ensuring that this space is not used as a tool for disparagement and division.”
Judge Engelmayer said he was bound by an earlier precedent that MTA buses are a “designated public forum” because the MTA has in the past permitted political ads to appear on the exterior of buses. In a designated public forum, he ruled, it is impermissible to bar only those ads that demean individuals or groups on account of certain characteristics such as religion or race, but allow other ads that demean other individuals or groups.
Judge Engelmayer stayed the effect of his order for 30 days to give the MTA an opportunity to appeal and also to consider instead whether to amend its advertising standards. The MTA continues to review Judge Engelmayer’s lengthy decision and is evaluating its existing advertising standards in light of the court’s ruling.