In November 2017, we reported that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case of a Minneapolis man who was denied his right to vote because he was wearing a t-shirt that said “Don’t tread on me.” That seems to be ambiguous enough, but the process of determining which slogans or statements fell into the banned category was the very thing that seven Supreme Court Justices found unconstitutional. What began with questioning on the Minnesota law, appeared to put the t-shirt on trial during questioning by Justice Samuel Alito. According to the New York Times, when asked whether a t-shirt wearing a rainbow flag was worn at the polling facility by a voter, Minnesota’s attorney, Daniel Rogan responded, “It would be permitted, unless there was an issue on the ballot that related somehow to gay rights.”
Justice Alito continued: “A T-shirt saying “Parkland Strong,” referring to the Florida school shooting?”
Rogan: “That would be O.K.”
Justice Alito: “A T-shirt bearing the logo of the National Rifle Association?”
Rogan: “That would not be acceptable today in Minnesota.”
Justice Alito: “One reproducing the text of the Second Amendment?”
Rogan: “I think that that could be viewed as political.”
Justice A: “One reproducing the text of the First Amendment?”
Rogan: “It would be allowed.”
Justice Alito: “One saying ‘All lives matter’?”
Rogan: “That could be perceived as political.”
Justice Alito: “One saying #MeToo?”
Rogan: “If that was an issue in elections in that polling place, that would be political.”
Now retired Justice Anthony Kennedy also questioned whether the t-shirt or the polling judge’s confrontation with the voter caused the most harm and clearly sided with the t-shirt, “It seems to me that’s more disruptive than wearing the shirt,” he said.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “‘A rule whose fair enforcement requires an election judge to maintain a mental index of the platforms and positions of every candidate and party on the ballot is not reasonable.”
And, with that, the t-shirt was exonerated and set free.