Two years after the North Carolina speech police told Jasna Bukvic-Bhayani she needed government permission to talk about makeup, she is finally free to open the school of her dreams. At a court-ordered mediation in March, North Carolina’s cosmetology board agreed to a consent judgment that allows unlicensed makeup schools like Jasna’s to operate. Now, Jasna can share her expertise with students in the Charlotte area who are eager to learn what she has to teach.
As regular readers of Liberty & Law may recall, Jasna tried opening a makeup school in 2016. But she ran afoul of North Carolina’s requirement that she first get an onerous license requiring 600 hours of training, mostly unrelated to makeup, and more than $10,000 of unnecessary equipment. Jasna was free to apply makeup—just not to teach other people how to do it.
So Jasna joined IJ and sued to challenge North Carolina’s license requirement. We argued that no one should need a license simply to talk about makeup because the First Amendment protects the right to speak for a living.
Unfortunately, courts have not always applied the First Amendment to people who earn their living by speaking. They have sometimes classified occupational speech as economic “conduct” to evade First Amendment review.
Letting the government escape the requirements of the First Amendment by relabeling speech as conduct would blow a gaping hole in constitutional protection for free speech. That’s why IJ has teamed up with tour guides, diet coaches, yoga teachers, and others who speak for a living. Through these cases, we obtain precedent clarifying that occupational speech is fully protected by the U.S. Constitution, just like other speech.
In so doing, we also provide greater protection for economic liberty. For people who speak for a living, licenses to speak also constitute licenses to work. By striking down these licensing requirements, we simultaneously protect speakers’ right to free speech and their right to earn an honest living.
Protecting occupational speech means more options for entrepreneurs and consumers. Thanks to this latest victory, Jasna is now free to sign up students, lease space for her school, and test out her curriculum without having to conform to one-size-fits-all regulations that have next to nothing to do with her business.
The fight to protect occupational speech is far from over. As we pause to celebrate another victory, rest assured that IJ will continue to press forward until we end licenses to speak once and for all.
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