Skip to main content

Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison

To book an interview, click on the "Book an Interview" button on any page at ADFmedia.org.

Description:  An ordinance in Madison, Wis. imposed “bubble zones” that were 200 feet in diameter and restricted free speech within them throughout the city. The bubbles existed around the entrances of every place in the city where a physician or nurse happened to provide medical services. Within each bubble, no person was able to “approach” within eight feet of another person to leaflet, educate, display a sign, protest, or counsel any passers-by. The ordinance therefore created such zones around hundreds of locations, including areas near the State Capitol and the University of Wisconsin campus. Former NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Director Lisa Subeck introduced and chiefly sponsored the law, which the pro-abortion group aggressively promoted.


Thursday, Aug 7, 2014

Attorney sound bite:  Matt Bowman

MADISON, Wis. – The city of Madison voted Tuesday to rescind its law that created hundreds of censorship zones throughout the city in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in McCullen v. Coakley, a case Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys filed in 2008. ADF filed suit against the Madison law in February.

Following a supplemental brief ADF attorneys filed after the Supreme Court’s decision, City Attorney Michael May suspended enforcement of the law. After that, May detailed the problems with Madison’s law in a letter to the council. The council then passed modifications to the law to remove all unconstitutional restrictions on speech, and the changes now await Mayor Paul Soglin’s signature.

“The government cannot muzzle speech just because it doesn’t reflect the views of abortionists or of those in government who favor abortion,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The Supreme Court made that clear when it affirmed the long-recognized fact that public streets and sidewalks are places where free speech is highly protected. We agree with the city attorney’s conclusion that the censorship zones are unconstitutional, as our lawsuit has argued. The city was right to rescind bad law.”

In his letter to the city council, May wrote, “The City is not able to enforce the ordinance in light of McCullen, and leaving the law on the books opens the City up to additional lawsuits.” He reached that conclusion, he explained, because the McCullen decision was “the Supreme Court’s repudiation of much of the Hill v. Colorado precedent.” Hill v. Colorado is a previous Supreme Court decision on which the Madison law was said to be based.

Similar to what ADF attorneys argued in their supplemental brief filed with the district court, May explained that the McCullen decision effectively overruled Hill. The “rulings in Hill – the very rulings that were the basis of the City’s ordinance – are now seriously in doubt,” he wrote.

City council member and former NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Director Lisa Subeck introduced and chiefly sponsored the original law. It imposed “bubbles” that were 200 feet in diameter and restricted free speech within them throughout the city. The bubbles existed around the entrances of every place in the city where a physician or nurse happened to provide medical services.

Within each bubble, no person was able to “approach” within eight feet of another person to leaflet, educate, display a sign, protest, or counsel any passers-by. The ordinance therefore created such zones around hundreds of locations, including areas near the State Capitol and the University of Wisconsin campus. Because of that, all of the clients ADF represented in Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison – from individual pro-life advocates to student groups – benefit from the repeal, and therefore ADF attorneys plan to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min)
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
# # # | Ref. 44348

Previous News Releases


Legal Documents

Declaration of Madison city attorney: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Motion for stay: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Brief in support of motion to dismiss: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Denial of temporary restraining order: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Complaint: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison
Voluntary dismissal: Madison Vigil for Life v. City of Madison

Related Resources

ABOUT Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family. He most recently joined ADF in December 2020. From 2017 to 2020, Bowman was a senior executive service appointee in the Trump administration, serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Deputy General Counsel, and then in the Office for Civil Rights. Prior to joining HHS, Bowman was an accomplished litigator at ADF for over ten years. Before joining ADF in 2006, Bowman served as a law clerk for Judges Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Michael A. Chagares, at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and for Judge John M. Roll at the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Bowman earned his J.D. summa cum laude and was first in his class at Ave Maria School of Law in 2003. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and Michigan and is admitted to practice at the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal appellate and district courts.