A New York federal appeals court has prevented the U.S. government from requiring an anti-prostitution pledge from organizations receiving government funding in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
The Alliance for Open Society International, Pathfinder International, the Global Health Council, and InterAction have been fighting the case since 2005. The organizations are protesting language in the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, which requires organizations receiving government funding to publicly announce that they are opposed to prostitution and sex trafficking. The blanket pledge would also extend to privately funded activities.
Requiring the pledge would have a major impact on the effectiveness and reach of HIV/AIDS programming.
“Compelling speech as a condition of receiving a government benefit cannot be squared with the First Amendment,” the court wrote. “The right to communicate freely on such matters of public concern lies at the heart of the First Amendment.”
The 2-to-1 ruling upheld a lower court’s decision.