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View full sizeChuck Crow, The Plain Dealer, FileJason Floyd Williams shows off his tattoo of President Theodore Roosevelt in The Plain Dealer's photo studio in Cleveland. LOS ANGELES -- Tattoos and the art of tattooing are "forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment," a federal appeals court ruled Thursday in a challenge to the ban on tattoo parlors in the city of Hermosa Beach, California.
The city was sued by Johnny Anderson, co-owner of Yer Cheat'n Heart Tattoo in Gardena, Calif.
Tattooing "is a process like writing words down or drawing a picture except that it is performed on a person's skin," the appeals panel said in overturning a lower court ruling that the subcutaneously inked images were not sufficiently expressive to deserve protection.


The case was one of "first impression" for the 9th Circuit, establishing what will now be precedent, if unchallenged or upheld, in extending constitutional protection to tattoos as forms of speech.
Anderson had been trying to open a parlor in Hermosa Beach since 2006 but was repeatedly rebuffed by city officials who refused to allow the practice on grounds that tattooing can lead to infection or disease if not done properly. Moest, said he expected Hermosa Beach officials to reconsider an earlier city staff proposal to open one commercial zone to tattoo parlors. Cotti, said he had not yet seen the court ruling and did not know how city officials planned to respond.


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