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4-1 vote passes ban on picketing outside a home

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An ordinance that bans picketing outside a person’s home was approved with little discussion Tuesday by Bernalillo County commissioners. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the ban, with Commissioner Wayne Johnson casting the lone vote against it.

Johnson in August raised First Amendment concerns about placing restrictions on where people can protest, saying “it’s a short step to what they can protest.”

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who co-sponsored the bill with Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, said the ordinance would not prevent people from protesting in residential areas, but will prevent people from targeting an individual’s home.

The picketing issue surfaced in August after an anti-abortion protest was held outside the North Valley home of an Albuquerque doctor.

County Attorney Randy Autio told commissioners the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld picketing ordinances similar to that approved Tuesday.

The ordinance makes it illegal to do any “picketing focused on and taking place in front of or next to a particular residence, without the express prior consent of the occupant(s).”

The proposal was modeled on the city’s ordinance, Hart Stebbins said.

Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, has said the “ACLU always has concerns when speech rights are curtailed,” but said “the Supreme Court has ruled that an ordinance such as that proposed by Commissioner Stebbins – and like the one in Albuquerque – is constitutional.”

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