Order bars Va. from enforcing ban on alcohol ads in college papers

VIRGINIA — A federal judge on Thursday issued a permanentinjunction barring Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board fromenforcing two regulations that ban certain kinds of alcohol advertisements innewspapers.

The injunction follows a March 31 ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge M. HannahLauck declaring two provisions of the ban were “facially unconstitutional”because they violated the First Amendment.

One of the regulations Lauck struck down banned alcohol advertisements instudent newspapers.

“This decision reaffirms the idea that student newspapers are partof the press just like any other publication,” said Rebecca Glenberg,attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

The lawsuit was brought against the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Controlboard in June 2006 by the ACLU on behalf of two student newspapers: Universityof Virginia’s The Cavalier Daily and Virginia Tech’sCollegiate Times.

“It’s great we’re finally able to print what we wantto,” said David Harries, editor in chief of the Collegiate Times. “It’s not for them to decide what we can and cannot print. It fallsunder freedom of the press.”

In a document filed with the court, The Cavalier Daily estimated itlost about $30,000 in 2006 because of the alcohol advertisement ban.

In March, Lauck ruled that two provisions restricting alcohol ads wereunconstitutional, but she allowed both sides to suggest the way Lauck shouldinterpret the ABC’s policy.

The attorney general’s office of Virginia, which represented the ABC,asked Lauck to issue a narrow order that would still allow the state to enforceparts of the regulations. Lauck, siding with the ACLU, chose to completelystrike the provisions.

“The regulation said that it could ban advertisements directedprimarily at people under the age of 21, but the ABC was never very clear onwhat they meant by that,” Glenberg said.

The attorney general’s office said they were reviewing the decisionbut declined to comment otherwise. They will have 30 days to appeal theruling.

The Virginia decision comes after a 2004 decision in the 3rd U.S. CircuitCourt of Appeals that struck down a similar law in Pennsylvania.

Although the decision is a victory for college publications, it does notnecessarily allow any Virginia publication to advertise alcohol. A major pointin the ACLU’s case was that a college publication serves many readers overthe age of 21 and thus should be able to advertise a service legal to thatportion of the newspaper’s readers.

Glenberg acknowledged that if a publication has a readership predominantlyunder the age of 21 or advertises alcohol to minors in another way, it might beprohibited from publishing alcohol advertisements.