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La. Family's Sign Supports Marine Son: Gets Sued

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 27, 2011 12:16 PM

When Corey Burr shipped off to Afghanistan in January as a member of the U.S. Marines, his parents erected a banner in their front yard displaying his picture and reading, "Our son defends our freedom."

Residents of Bossier City, Louisiana, the Burrs live in a community that is governed by Gardens of Southgate Association, a homeowners' association.

The association claims the banner is against the rules.

Like most HOAs, Gardens of Southgate restricts lawn signs, limiting their size.

Despite the banner exceeding this limit, Reuters reports that the Burrs have refused to remove it from their front lawn. They are now being sued.

Their main contention is that the HOA has unevenly enforced its sign restrictions, and thus cannot suddenly decided to do so now.

They also allege that the restriction violates their First Amendment rights.

Residents tangling with homeowners' associations is a recurring theme in First Amendment jurisprudence, with lawsuits covering signs, pride flags, and even American flags.

Unfortunately, courts are anything but conclusive in this area of law.

Some, like the Supreme Court of New Jersey, have ruled that HOAs can enforce only reasonable restrictions on free speech.

Others, including the 11th Circuit, have chosen to completely allow such regulations.

Legislators have also often entered the equation, passing laws that require HOAs to allow the display of patriotic garb.

Because of such disjointed jurisprudence, whether the banner supporting Corey Burr will be able to remain ultimately depends on a web of state statutes and court opinions, and in some ways, on the response of the greater community.

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