A US Appeals court in California has agreed with tattoos being protected by the First Amendment in a landmark case between tattoo artists and the city of Hermosa Beach, near Los Angeles.
Originally, tattoo shop proprietor Johnny Anderson, who currently runs a shop called Yer Cheat’n Heart in Gardena, California, tried to open a new location in the beachfront community, only to be confronted with an anti-tattoo parlor law.
However, a panel of three ruled in favor of Anderson.
“A form of speech does not lose First Amendment protection based on the kind of surface it is applied to,” wrote Judge Jay Bybee in the decision.
The court said that “Tattooing is a process like writing words down or drawing a picture, except that it is performed on a person’s skin,” and should not be discriminated against.
The ruling was a big step in the acceptance of tattooing as an art form, as courts have generally upheld bans in local legislation. The court acknowledged tattooing was “one of the oldest forms of human expression” and “one of the world’s most universally practiced forms of artwork.”
Some expect the ruling to overturn other bans in the Los Angeles area, and to lead to more health inspections for tattoo shops. Michigan benefits from already having regular health inspections, with those operators who don’t meet sterilization requirement being denied licenses.
“California lacks statewide standards for sterilization and sanitation and standards for tattooists,” an LA Times editorial in favor of the ruling read. “This regulatory gap needs to be closed.”