BOOS v. BARRY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
86-803
Petitioner 
Boos
Respondent 
Barry
Advocates
(on behalf of Petitioners)
(as Amicus Curiae; in support of Respondents)
(on behalf of Respondents)
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Term:
Facts of the Case 

A provision in the District of Columbia Code prohibited the display of signs within 500 feet of a foreign embassy which tended to "bring that government into public odium or public disrepute." Congregations of three or more persons within the 500 feet limit were prohibited as well. Boos and others were denied permission to display signs criticizing the Soviet Union in front of that country's embassy.

Question 

Did the District of Columbia Code violate the First Amendment of the Constitution?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Boos, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

The Court found that the Code's restriction on sign displays violated the First Amendment while the ban on congregations did not. First, Justice O'Connor argued that the prohibition on signs failed to meet the high standards that the Court uses when evaluating the content-based regulation of political speech in a public forum. The "dignity" standard that the Code used was similar to the "outrageousness" standard which the Court found unconstitutional in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988) because it was too subjective. Second, O'Connor reasoned that since the language of the ban on congregations was narrowly drawn and could only be acted upon by the police in situations where a threat to security or peace were present, it did not prohibit peaceful gatherings.

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BOOS v. BARRY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_803>.
BOOS v. BARRY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_803 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"BOOS v. BARRY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_803.