May 24, 2006

In a victory for Jenner & Block client DKT International, Inc., a federal judge ruled last week that the group’s First Amendment rights were violated by a government directive that requires U.S. health groups to denounce prostitution in order to receive funds for international work to prevent the spread of AIDS. 

In granting DKT’s motion for summary judgment, the district court noted that the First Amendment protects “both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.”  DKT does not have a policy either opposing or supporting prostitution, the court wrote, and to preclude it from maintaining that “neutrality” would unlawfully restrict its private speech and force it to “parrot the government’s policies.”

Jenner & Block Partner Julie M. Carpenter and Associate Martina E. Vandenberg, along with Associate Amy L. Tenney, filed the motion on behalf of DKT in 2005, after the U.S. Agency for International Development cancelled DKT’s grant to help stop the spread of AIDS in Vietnam because DKT had refused to sign the anti-prostitution pledge.  Congress had required the pledge in the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003.

DKT is a U.S.-based nonprofit corporation that provides family-planning and HIV/AIDS services and programming in eleven countries worldwide.  One of the largest providers of these services, DKT currently serves nearly 10 million couples.

Please click here to view the district court’s opinion.

Please click here to view the Firm’s complaint.