(CN) - A Florida town can require a resident to remove paintings outside his house depicting the mayor and vice mayor as Shrek and Donkey, a federal judge ruled.
Martin O'Boyle, of Gulf Stream, Fla., said his beef with the town stemmed from a wrongful variance denial that made his home on Florida's Intercoastal Waterway uninsurable.
"Pursuant to the variance denial, plaintiff composed several large paintings, described by plaintiff as 'satires' or 'lampoons' criticizing town officials, on the walls of his home," U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks wrote. "One painting is a horizontal rainbow-colored stripe covering the length of what appears to be a three-car garage. Another painting is a depiction of a green 'Shrek'-like character labeled as 'Vice Mayor' holding a leash attached to a donkey labeled 'Mayor,' with a bucktoothed blonde woman sitting atop the donkey. Emitting from the 'Shrek' character is a speech bubble that reads, 'I'm leading this ass to the Town Hall
.' A third painting depicts Tweedledee and Tweedledum labeled as Mayor Joan Orthwein (Dee) and Town Manager William Thrasher (Dum). The last painting depicts the hooded head of what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan member, with the words 'Commissioner Thug' across the head, 'this is a satire' and 'stop the oppression' on each side of the head, and 'Welcome to Gulf Stream' in big, red, bold letters below the head. This last painting overlooks the Intercoastal Waterway and is clearly visible to boats passing by." (Emphasis in original.)
The town claimed the paintings violated its sign ordinance, and scheduled a hearing to settle the dispute.
After O'Boyle sued the town, however, the town postponed the hearing and did not reach a final decision to apply the zoning ordinance to O'Boyle's house.
Because the town's decision was not final, Middlebrooks concluded that O'Boyle's claims were not ripe and that he could not obtain an injunction or restraining order.
O'Boyle also failed to show that the town's ordinance regulating the exterior wall colors of homes was unconstitutional, according to the June 19 ruling.
For the purposes of these proceedings, Middlebrooks said the ordinance was content-neutral because it furthered a legitimate government interest while leaving open adequate alternative methods of speech.