Should honking your horn to support a protest be illegal? We want the Supreme Court to decide

People honk their car horns every day. It might be to celebrate your favorite team’s big win.

President Joe Biden asked participants to honk their horns at a political rally. The First Amendment Coalition has asked the US Supreme Court to protect this kind of free speech.

Maybe you just need to alert the driver in front of you at a red light that the light turned green. Or maybe you’re at a “drive-in rally” — like the ones President Biden held during COVID in 2020 — and you want to show your agreement when he asks: “Honk if you want America to be united again.”

Honking is common, part of the American tradition — and it’s also a type of expression First Amendment Coalition believes is protected by the First Amendment.

But in California, it’s against the law. And there are 41 similar laws in other states that prohibit honking for anything that isn’t warning of imminent danger in traffic (or activating a car alarm). That’s why we’re asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up our client Susan Porter’s case.

Porter got a ticket for honking to support a San Diego County political protest in 2017. I heard about this case while I was legal director at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, and I was shocked. I had to do something.

So, I filed the lawsuit challenging this law in 2018, and I’ve continued this case at FAC, arguing that the government violated Porter’s free speech rights by ticketing her for honking her horn.

Unfortunately, the lower courts disagreed, although a Ninth Circuit judge dissented. So FAC has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and have the final say on whether horn use is protected by the First Amendment.

We live in a politically charged climate, where all kinds of noise — shouting, singing, cheering, and yes, horn-honking — are part of civil discourse.

We’re not saying anyone should be allowed to honk their horn at any time or place at any volume. We’re saying the government can’t ban the use of horns for self-expression under any circumstances, even in the middle of the day at a political protest on a busy street.

We hope the Supreme Court will consider this case and protect all our First Amendment rights.