WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a 2003 law does not violate constitutional free speech rights by requiring overseas affiliates of American-based nonprofit groups that seek federal funding for HIV/AIDS relief to take a formal stance opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.
The 5-3 ruling, authored by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, represented a victory for President Donald Trump’s administration in its appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of the relief groups. The court’s five conservatives were in the majority. Three liberal justices dissented and one liberal justice, Elena Kagan, did not participate.
Organizations including the Alliance for Open Society International, Pathfinder International, InterAction and the Global Health Council challenged the provision as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
The groups said the restrictions, part of a law enacted under Republican former President George W. Bush, interferes with the ability to provide advice and counseling to sex workers about the risks of HIV infection.
The groups argued that to an ordinary person these organizations and their overseas affiliates that help carry out their work and are known by similar names are indistinguishable.
The plaintiffs obtained an injunction in 2006 preventing the policy from being enforced against them. The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the law violated the free speech rights of the U.S.-based groups but did not decide at that time whether applying it to their overseas partners also was unconstitutional.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham