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ACLU Sues Over Rejection Of Anti-SeaWorld Ad At San Diego Airport; PETA Joins Suit

Actress Kathy Najimy is shown in a PETA ad urging San Diego visitors to not visit SeaWorld.
Actress Kathy Najimy is shown in a PETA ad urging San Diego visitors to not visit SeaWorld.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced Tuesday that it joined the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties in suing the operator of San Diego International Airport over its refusal of an advertisement urging visitors to avoid SeaWorld.

PETA and the ACLU contend that advertisements for nonprofits and SeaWorld San Diego are allowed at Lindbergh Field, making the rejection of the animal rights group's message discriminatory.

The ad, valued at $17,500, features actress Kathy Najimy welcoming travelers to San Diego and urging them to stay away from the theme park if they love animals.


SeaWorld has long been a PETA target over alleged abuse of killer whales featured in its signature "Shamu" shows. The group organizes frequent protests outside the park's gates.

Last week, an assemblyman from Santa Monica introduced legislation that would ban such exhibitions.

The county airport authority operates Lindbergh Field, but a private firm, JCDecaux, handles advertising.

"While the government has some authority to regulate advertising, this is an example of the government abusing that authority and unfairly discriminating against the message of a specific advertiser," said Sean Riordan, ACLU senior staff attorney. "The First Amendment stands to protect against this kind of viewpoint discrimination."

Najimy, who grew up in San Diego, said her parents took her to SeaWorld when she was young, when "we didn't know better."


The actress, known for her roles in "Sister Act" and the HBO television program "VEEP," said tourists should instead go to Balboa Park, the Old Globe or "get naked at Black's Beach."

SeaWorld denies PETA's allegations of mistreatment. The airport authority declined to comment on pending litigation.