Colorado Rights Blog


  • Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley spoke at the marriage equality rally on March 3rd

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ACLU Declares Victory in Challenge to Colorado "Anti-profanity" Regulation


July 6, 2000

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) declared victory today in a free speech case when it announced that the State of Colorado has agreed to stop enforcing a regulation that forbids owners of bars and restaurants from "permitting profanity" on their premises.


The ACLU challenged the regulation in a lawsuit filed last September on behalf of Leonard L. Carlo, owner of Leonard’s Bar II in Colorado Springs. The suit charged that the Colorado Division of Liquor Enforcement violated Carlo’s constitutional rights when it relied on the anti-profanity regulation as grounds for abruptly confiscating 29 signs that had been on display in Carlo’s bar.


Less than a week after the ACLU filed suit, the Division of Liquor Enforcement countered by filing an administrative charge seeking to suspend or revoke Carlo’s liquor license for allegedly "permitting profanity." The ACLU then obtained a temporary injunction barring any additional enforcement while the ACLU’s lawsuit was pending.


"The State of Colorado has now agreed that it cannot enforce this antiquated and unconstitutional regulation against owners of bars and restaurants," said Steven D. Zansberg of Faegre & Benson, who served as an ACLU volunteer attorney and negotiated the settlement agreement. "The State will dismiss its charge against our client and return the signs it tore down from the walls of Mr. Carlo’s bar. In return, our client will drop his civil rights claim against Colorado officials."


"This settlement is a victory for the principle of free expression," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "The Constitution does not permit government inspectors to monitor private businesses to ensure that the owners express themselves in accordance with government-approved standards of good taste. The First Amendment forbids the State of Colorado from punishing individuals simply for using language that government officials regard as offensive. As the Supreme Court explained many years ago, ‘One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.’"

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