Published   February 16, 2011

Renters Deserve Free Speech Rights Too

Kehoe Bill Allows Tenants to Display Campaign Signs

SAN DIEGO – Tenants will have the right to display campaign signs in the windows of their rented homes if a bill introduced today by Senator Christine Kehoe and backed by the ACLU passes in the California legislature and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

While the notion may seem uncontroversial, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation in 2006. He said the bill offered “no clarity on the rights of property owners to control the appearance of their property and protect the environment for other tenants.”

“The right to freedom of expression for the 40 percent of all Californians who rent their homes will be protected by this important legislation,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We commend Senator Kehoe for bringing forward this bill, and encourage the legislature and Governor Brown to guarantee this right for California tenants.”

SB 337 would allow tenants to post campaign signs for candidates, initiatives, recalls, referendums, and legislative votes in the windows of their homes. Current law allows residents in mobile home parks, homeowners’ associations, and common interest developments to display political signs, but these protections do not apply to renters in general.

“Renters deserve the right to express their political views just as much as homeowners, and there is no reason to continue this ‘second class’ status in California,” said Senator Christine Kehoe in a statement to the press.

The ACLU has successfully argued in court that current California law protects renters from posting political signs and that lease restrictions that bar them from doing so are unlawful. The U.S. Supreme Court has strongly affirmed the importance of signs on or around the home as a means of free expression, ruling in City of Ladue v. Gilleo (1994) that signs are a “venerable means of communication,” and are intended “to reach neighbors, an audience that could not be reached nearly as well by other means.”

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