Fed judge upholds begging ban at LAX

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(LAX/LAWA Image)

(CNS) – A federal judge has upheld a city ordinance that bans begging for funds inside the terminals, parking areas or sidewalks at Los Angeles International Airport, it was announced today.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall ruled the city’s ordinance was constitutional because, among other things, LAX is not a public forum as defined under the First Amendment; the ordinance was “viewpoint neutral”; and any restrictions placed on freedom of expression at LAX were reasonable under the circumstances.

The city and the Hare Krishnas have been battling over the issue in court since the Los Angeles City Council adopted the ordinance in 1997.

The International Society of Krishna Consciousness filed suit more than 15 years ago challenging the law banning the solicitation of contributions at LAX and its other airports. The case has been argued before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court.

The ordinance has been enforceable since a ruling by the state Supreme Court in July 2010. City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich praised Marshall’s decision, which was issued Tuesday. “The City of Los Angeles supports all expressions of free speech protected by the First Amendment, but also recognizes that passengers and the public also have a right not to be solicited for money or accosted as they pass through our airports,” Trutanich said.

“Now that the federal court has found the city’s ordinance constitutional, I hope this costly litigation will end and our resources can be focused on other matters at LAX, including security and infrastructure improvements,” he said.

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