‘Free Speech’ For New Orleans Tour Guides Rejected By Supreme Court

The city of New Orleans can regulate who is and is not a Big Easy tour guide, according to a US Supreme Court ruling yesterday.

Opponents of the city requiring New Orleans tour guides to be licensed and regulated said the issue was based in freedom of speech arguments, but the Supreme Court justices were apparently not buying it.

Tour guides, who were previously free to tour without city regulation, must now have a background check, take a test on New Orleans history and culture, pass a drug test and be licensed.

Some tour guides were disappointed with the decision, while others seemed to not mind, according to the Associated Press.

Reaction among tour guides in New Orleans was mixed. Candance Kagan, one of four guides who filed the original lawsuit in 2011, said it involved freedom of speech and privacy issues — the law requires guides to provide a social security number. “It was never about the money,” she said, adding that she continues to give tours and is now licensed.

For the Institute for Justice, out of Virginia, the Supreme Court ruling was a blow, as they have been fighting for the tour guides’ right to free speech from the beginning. The group said the decision is out-of-step with a District of Columbia court ruling, which struck down the regulation.

“The D.C. court correctly saw tour-guide licensing for what it is: a violation of the basic First Amendment right to talk for a living,” Robert McNamara, an institute attorney, said in an emailed statement.

New Orleans City spokesman Bradley Howard said the new regulations are meant to “protect the integrity of the industry.”

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