By Anne Lowe

FREE SPEECH -- Tattoo parlors must now be allowed access to
commercially zoned areas of Hermosa Beach following a decision by the
U.S. ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that granted tattooing First Amendment protection. 

City officials refused to allow Johnny
Anderson, the co-owner of a tattoo parlor in Gardena, to open a parlor in Hermosa Beach, justifying the denial  on the grounds that infection and
disease can result from improper tattooing.

The appeals court, however, found tattoos to be forms of
expression and therefore protected by the First Amendment, the
Los
Angeles Times
reports:

Tattooing "is a process like writing words
down or drawing a picture except that it is performed on a person's skin,"
the appeals panel said in overturning a lower court ruling that the
subcutaneously inked images were not sufficiently expressive to deserve
protection.

"A form of speech does not lose
1st Amendment protection based on the kind of surface it is applied to,"
the panel stated.

If city officials do not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or the ruling is
upheld, free speech protection will be granted to tattooing in all western states within the Ninth Circuit.