US Supreme Court upholds curb on overseas AIDS funding

The US Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, US, January 21, 2020. — Reuters pic
The US Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, US, January 21, 2020. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The US Supreme Court today ruled that a 2003 law does not violate constitutional free speech rights by requiring overseas affiliates of American-based non-profit groups that seek federal funding for HIV/AIDS relief to take a formal stance opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.

The 5-3 ruling, authored by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, represented a victory for President Donald Trump’s administration in its appeal of a lower court ruling in favour of the relief groups. The court’s five conservatives were in the majority. Three liberal justices dissented and one liberal justice, Elena Kagan, did not participate.

Organizations including the Alliance for Open Society International, Pathfinder International, InterAction and the Global Health Council challenged the provision as a violation of the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

The groups said the restrictions, part of a law enacted under Republican former President George W. Bush, interferes with the ability to provide advice and counselling to sex workers about the risks of HIV infection.

The groups argued that to an ordinary person these organisations and their overseas affiliates that help carry out their work and are known by similar names are indistinguishable.

The plaintiffs obtained an injunction in 2006 preventing the policy from being enforced against them. The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the law violated the free speech rights of the US-based groups but did not decide at that time whether applying it to their overseas partners also was unconstitutional. — Reuters

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