High court rules HIV funding ban unconstitutional

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 1, 2013

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The federal government cannot withhold funding from HIV/AIDS prevention programs offered by organizations that decline to adopt policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

A provision mandating that prevention groups adopt those stances was part of a 2003 law that approved billions of dollars in aid to organizations overseas that fight infectious diseases. The law’s provision cites prostitution and sex trafficking as contributing to the spread of HIV.

But New York-based Alliance for Open Society International sued, saying the provision violated free-speech rights of organizations. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the provision goes well beyond what are permissible conditions on the receipt of government funds and that it “compels recipients to espouse the government’s viewpoint.”

In its June 20 opinion, the Supreme Court agreed that the requirement violates the First Amendment. The policy provision goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. “It requires them to pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution,” the high court said in overturning the ban (link).

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