Gray v. Maine Department of Public Safety

October 4, 2021
Court: United States Supreme Court

Joshua Gray took to social media to do what thousands of Americans do each day: express his thoughts on a matter of public concern. When Gray applied for a professional investigator license, the Maine Department of Public Safety denied his application, pointing to Gray’s social media statements as evidence that he was incompetent and lacked the requisite moral character. In upholding the Department’s denial, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine failed to recognize that the Department’s actions violated Gray’s First Amendment rights.

FIRE filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court in Gray v. Maine Department of Public Safety. The brief urges the Court to consider whether occupational licensing boards may deny professional licenses due to the content of an applicant’s speech without satisfying strict scrutiny.

Nearly a quarter of American workers are subject to licensure requirements and many college students will be subject to those same requirements once they enter the workforce. FIRE’s brief argues that the Maine Supreme Court’s decision chills speech; if professionals and students fear that speaking out on controversial issues may result in the denial of professional licensure, they are more likely to avoid such speech altogether.