The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the DC Metro on behalf of gay Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos, a former columnist and semi-professional internet troll, has previously claimed he would ‘cure’ himself of being gay if he could, and described trans people as “mentally ill gay men dressing up for attention”.
The far-right figurehead was banned from Twitter last year after allegedly encouraging a wave of racist abuse directed at Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, while he also took advantage of a university speech on his ‘Dangerous Faggot’ lecture tour to single out and bully a transgender student on-stage.
The outspoken Trump supporter has found an unlikely ally, however – the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU today announced that it would be filing a lawsuit on behalf of Yiannopoulos, after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority refused to allow him to advertise his book on the DC Metro.
The legal non-profit has raked in millions of dollars in donations in the past few months through appeals vowing to resist Trump’s regressive agenda.
Some donors may be surprised to see them using their funding influx to defend one of Trump’s most outspoken and controversial supporters.
The civil rights body explained: “Yiannopoulos trades on outrage: He brands feminism a cancer, he believes that transgender individuals have psychological problems, and he has compared Black Lives Matter activists to the KKK.
“The ACLU condemns many of the values he espouses (and he, of course, condemns many of the values the ACLU espouses).
“[But] unlike Mr. Yiannopoulos’ stock-in-trade, the ads themselves were innocuous, and self-evidently not an attempt to influence any opinion other than which book to buy.”
It added: “WMATA accepted the ads and displayed them in Metro stations and subway cars — until riders began to complain about Mr Yiannopoulos being allowed to advertise his book.
“Just 10 days after the ads went up, WMATA directed its agents to take them all down and issue a refund — suddenly claiming that the ads violated [policy].
The WMATA’s ads policy on controversial issues bans units “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions” or “intended to influence public policy.”
The policies were adopted in 2015 following controversy surrounding a set of anti-Muslim advertisements.
There are several other plaintiffs in the case who were denied ads, including controversial animal rights group PETA, birth control provider Carafem, and the ACLU itself.
The suit alleges that the WMATA is violating the First Amendment by discriminating against particular ads and advertisers deemed controversial by WMATA officials.
Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU-DC and lead counsel in the case, said: “This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property.
“The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.”
Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said: “The four plaintiffs in this case perfectly illustrate the indivisibility of the First Amendment.
“In its zeal to avoid hosting offensive and hateful speech, the government has eliminated speech that makes us think, including the text of the First Amendment itself. The ACLU could not more strongly disagree with the values that Milo Yiannopoulos espouses, but we can’t allow the government to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable.”
Yiannopoulos was sacked from a string of jobs this year after damaging tapes emerged in which he discussed men who have sex with underage boys.
His book ‘Dangerous’ had been set for release by publisher Simon & Schuster, but he was left unable to find another mainstream publisher and forced to self-publish.