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Rights and Wrongs.

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Tattoos it seems, are by their very nature controversial.  I don’t know why, but they are always tied up in some sort of debate or another and have been ever since they were introduced into modern society.  Some people just can’t get over the fact that tattoos exist and they will always continue to exist.  There is no way to stop them and all efforts to do so are entirely futile.

Since March of 2009, Ryan and Laetitia Coleman of Mesa, Arizona have been having their own experience with a city council that refuses to acknowledge tattoo as a legitimate business.  The couple were denied a business permit to open their tattoo studio, Angel Tattoo.  Numerous residents of Mesa felt that a tattoo studio would bring in more crime and gang activity.  The Colemans decided that they weren’t going to take the denial of opening their own business lightly.  In April of 2010, they filed a lawsuit against the city of Mesa, alleging that their First Amendment right of freedom of expression had been violated.  They lost that lawsuit and then promptly appealed.  The state appeals court heard arguments for the case on September 15th of this year, and the final verdict of the case is still pending.  But despite the Coleman’s insistence that being denied the ability to open a tattoo business in the city of Mesa is a crime against their First Amendment rights, some people don’t feel that this was the best angle to take on the issue.

‘Mark Walters, owner of the Tempe business Living Canvas Tattoos, heavily supports a tattoo artist’s expressional rights but argues shops in the Valley should be regulated.

“This is a non-regulated industry in Arizona so there has to be a cutoff point about what the freedom of expression is,” Walters said. “And if the state or the city doesn’t want to allow a tattoo shop they should have that right to not allow it for whatever reason they see fit.”’

‘Third year law student Sarah Giles said tattoos in general are definitely a form of expression but a tattoo shop is more of a business and the couple in Mesa would have a better chance going with an alternative approach.

“I think you might have a better argument saying that the city is infringing on their right to operate a business and to make money and support their families,” Giles said.’

However, there is also the case of Johnny Anderson, who sued the city of Hermosa Beach over being denied the right to open a tattoo studio.  Anderson had also argued that his First Amendment rights were being violated and ended up winning the case.  Undoubtedly, I side with the Colemans and the likes of Johnny Anderson on this issue, but what do you think?  Is tattoo a part of your First Amendment right to express yourself?

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