The ACLU of Maine has filed suit against the town of Yarmouth over a new ordinance that prohibits teachers, volunteer firefighters and other town employees from campaigning for or serving on the Town Council.
The ACLU of Maine's legal director, Zach Heiden, says that violates the First Amendment right of free speech both for potential candidates, and for voters.
"That means one of our clients is going to have to give up her service on the Town Council, and that means other people in the town are being prohibited from voting for the candidate of their choice," Heiden says. "We think that's unconstitutional."
The ordinance was passed after a citizen's group filed a petition to put the issue to a public referendum. Voters passed it last year. According to the ACLU, the Council had chosen not to adopt a similar restriction.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Meghan Casey, a Latin teacher at Yarmouth High School, and five other Yarmouth residents.
Casey says the ban on town employees would prohibit a large swath of the Yarmouth's population from running for council, "not only teachers, but all town employees including firefighters, police officers, people who plow the roads, people who teach classes for stipends at community services, people who coach high school sports - some of the more involved people in town."
The lawsuit asks that the rule be taken off the books, and that the plaintiffs be repaid any reasonable attorney fees and costs, and given any other "appropriate" relief.
The town's attorney declined comment.
Updated Aug. 27, 2019 at 4:57 p.m. ET.