Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Tennessee’s outdoor advertising statute, finding it to be content-based in violation of the First Amendment. The court’s ruling affirms an earlier ruling by a federal district court.
A billboard owner challenged the Tennessee Billboard Act after he posted a sign supporting the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. The sign was located on vacant land, and the owner had failed to secure a permit from the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the billboard, as required by the law. The transportation department’s rationale for denying the permit was that it was not entitled to the law’s exception to permitting for on-premises signs, which the law generally defined as relating to the premises on which the sign was posted. While the TBA was generally intended to apply exclusively to commercial off-premises speech, the state’s denial of a permit to the plaintiff appeared to apply to noncommercial speech, i.e., the owner’s support for the Olympic team.