Metro pulled the ads last month after complaints from riders, saying it had concluded belatedly that the ads violated guidelines governing politically charged material.
The provocative Mr. Yiannopoulos has some unlikely allies in his suit, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Carafem, a nonprofit women’s health organization, each of which wants to run ads Metro has rejected. The groups say the refusals violate the First and 14th Amendments on free speech.
Metro guidelines don’t allow health and medical messages other than from the government, the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration.
The transit system also prohibits ads that influence the public on issues of varying opinions, as well as ads that don’t have a commercial benefit and intend to influence the public.
The challengers say Metro is engaging in viewpoint discrimination via the four guidelines, which they argue are unconstitutional.
“That unguided discretion authorizes and encourages discriminatory enforcement against controversial or unpopular viewpoints, and has resulted in discriminatory enforcement against controversial or unpopular viewpoints,” reads the ACLU’s legal complaint.
The complaint cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that held that trademarks can’t be invalidated based on the First Amendment because government agencies aren’t in the business of viewpoint discrimination.
Mr. Yiannopoulos originally was allowed to place advertisements for his new book, “Dangerous,” throughout the transit system. But after complaints from the public about the polarizing figure, Metro said the ads had to be removed.
Sherri Ly, media relations manager for Metro, said the transit authority adopted its commercial advertising guidelines in 2015.
Metro “intends to vigorously defend its commercial advertising guidelines, which are reasonable and viewpoint-neutral,” said Ms. Ly.
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