An Alamogordo man can keep his controversial billboard along the city's main thoroughfare _ for now, a state district judge has ruled.
Judge James Counts wants to schedule a full hearing in the case since it concerns freedom of speech and the right to privacy, the Alamogordo Daily News reported Friday. He made the decision during a hearing Thursday.
Greg Fultz, 35, put up the billboard in May. It shows him holding the outline of an infant. The text reads, "This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!"
The woman has taken Fultz to court for harassment and violation of privacy.
Counts' call for a full hearing comes after Fultz appealed an earlier decision that he immediately take down the billboard.
"The court has to weigh and balance at this point the potential infringement of constitutional rights," Counts said.
"The right to free speech has been generously regarded by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts. Until we have a full hearing, I don't feel comfortable infringing upon that."
Fultz said he was pleased with the judge's ruling.
While Counts has yet to schedule a hearing, Fultz's contract with the billboard company will expire Aug. 15.
His attorney, Todd Holmes, said there has been some discussion about possibly extending the contract. He added Counts' ruling is a "good victory in our First Amendment battle."
Fultz contends the billboard is about fathers' rights.
"I feel the message has got out," he said. "The only reason it's become viewed as a personal attack is because the other side has made it that way."
The woman's attorney, Ellen Jessen, had no comment after the hearing.
While it was unclear if the woman had an abortion or a miscarriage, Jessen said previously that the central issue was her client's privacy and the fact that the billboard has caused severe emotional distress.
Information from: Alamogordo Daily News, http://www.alamogordonews.com
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