Free Expression, Participatory Democracy - In fall 1998, John Slevin and John Guido sought to circulate petitions at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City. Fair officials charged Slevin with criminal trespassing and demanded that the petitioners purchase space at the fair for a cost of $350 to $400, thus creating a situation in which the right to petition the government depends upon one’s ability to pay a substantial registration fee.
The criminal charges were later dropped. Ironically, the petitions were in support of a referendum to send legislation making English Utah’s official language directly to the House floor during the 1999 legislative session. In 1998, the ACLU of Utah successfully opposed the same English-only bill because of our concerns that if passed, it would violate the due process and Equal Protection rights of Utahns who are not yet proficient in English. Regardless of our position on the underlying issues, the ACLU of Utah remains very concerned about fair officials’ restriction of Slevin and Guido’s right to advocate their political views and circulate petitions. As a result, in October 1998, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Brain Barnard filed suit against state fair officials and others. In February 2000, this case was favorably settled out of court, protecting the essential rights of the people to speak and petition the government, even on issues that the ACLU does not support.