Va. ACLU asks for review of liquor ad ban
The ACLU of Virginia asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review a federal appeals court ruling upholding a ban on alcohol advertising in Virginia's college newspapers.
In a 2-1 ruling in April, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission ban is a minimally restrictive approach to combat problem drinking.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition asking the high court to review the ruling. The ACLU says the ban isn't constitutional because there is no proof it diminishes underage or binge drinking on campus.
"College students are bombarded with alcohol ads every day — on television, on the radio, on the Internet, on T-shirts, on baseball caps, and in magazines," said Rebecca Glenberg, an ACLU of Virginia attorney who argued the case. "There is no reason to believe that banning the small fraction of these ads that appear in college newspapers has any impact on student behavior."
The ban prohibits advertising of beer, wine and mixed drinks in college student publications unless in advertisements for dining establishments. It also bans the phrase "happy hour" and references to specific mixed drinks.
Virginia Tech's Collegiate Times and the University of Virginia's Cavalier Daily challenged the ban. In 2008 a U.S. magistrate judge ruled that the ban violated the newspapers' free-speech rights, and invalidated the ban for all state college newspapers.
The state appealed and the federal appeals court ruled in favor of the ban, saying it "is narrowly tailored to serve the board's interest of establishing a comprehensive scheme attacking the problem of underage and dangerous drinking by college students."
The ACLU has countered, and Judge Norman K. Moon agreed in a dissent, that most readers of the college paper are over 21.
Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General's Office, refused to comment on the petition, saying the 4th Circuit's ruling "speaks for itself."
"The Constitution does not allow government officials to infringe on freedom of the press on a hunch," ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis said. "They need a reason, and it needs to be a good one."
The University of Pittsburgh's student paper, Pitt News, won a similar challenge in 2004 when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Pennsylvania's ban was unconstitutional because it not only didn't affect underage drinking but also unjustifiably imposed a burden on student media that was not imposed on others.
That decision was written by then-Justice Samuel A. Alito, who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court.
-- Associated Press
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