Supreme Court says law can't dictate anti-AIDS groups' speech

Published: June 20, 2013

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the federal government may not force groups that receive funding for overseas anti-HIV/AIDS programs to adopt its views against prostitution and sex trafficking.

The justices ruled 6 to 2 that a requirement in a multibillion-dollar anti-AIDS program that withholds funds from organizations that do not have a policy “explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking” violates an organization’s free-speech rights.

“This case is not about the government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”

The decision came on what is supposed to be the penultimate week of the Supreme Court’s term. But marquee decisions on same-sex marriage, the future of affirmative action in college admissions and on a key section of the Voting Rights Act are undecided, as are seven other cases.

Monday is the court’s last scheduled day for decisions, but it is likely the justices will add one or two more days next week.

The disputed provision is part of a 2003 law under which the United States is spending $60 billion to combat infectious diseases around the world. It forbade any of the money being used to “promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking,” which it said are ways the diseases are sometimes spread.

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