A federal judge in Los Angeles rejected the city’s request to throw out a National Rifle Association lawsuit challenging a new ordinance that requires contractors to disclose all business ties to the organization.
The NRA says the ordinance violates its First Amendment rights to free speech and association by discriminating against the group over its viewpoints and trying to freeze out its corporate supporters.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson on Monday rejected the city’s argument that contractors’ involvement with the NRA — such as offering discounts — isn’t “expressive” within the meaning of the First Amendment.
“That is rejected,” Wilson, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, said at a hearing on the city’s request. “It is expressive, so there is a First Amendment issue.”
The judge is still considering an NRA request for an order blocking the ordinance while it pursues its lawsuit to nullify the measure. He set another hearing for Sept. 9.
The NRA’s lawyer, Sean Brady, told Wilson that the Los Angeles ordinance is aimed at discouraging companies from partnering with the organization by putting their city contracts at risk — even if the ordinance itself has more benign language.
“The government cannot curtail support for an organization because of its speech,” he said. The city wants to subject NRA supporters “to ridicule and boycott,” he said.
Wilson noted several city council members had said during debates on the ordinance, and on Twitter, that they disagreed with the NRA’s mission and its influence.
That could be seen as contradicting the city’s claim that the ordinance is merely intended to increase transparency about contractors doing business with the NRA.
“They don’t like the NRA,” Wilson said. “That ought to be considered.”
He questioned why the city needed the information, comparing it to the government demanding that contractors reveal if they spent their money on a Cadillac or a Porsche. “Why does the city want to know that?” he asked.
Benjamin Chapman, the city’s lawyer, compared the ordinance to a sunshine law, saying it was about transparency.
He repeatedly challenged the NRA’s claim that the ordinance essentially was a backdoor attempt to see the organization’s membership list. He said several companies had already revealed their NRA deals to the city under the ordinance, including a major law firm and a national telecommunications company, and said the city hadn’t canceled its contracts with them.
Contracts “are not integral to expression,” Chapman said.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is a donor to candidates and groups that support gun control, including Everytown for Gun Safety.)