OKLAHOMA CITY – An anti-panhandling ordinance being considered by the Oklahoma City Council violates the United States Constitution and its passage would spark a substantial legal challenge, the Legal Director of American Civil Liberties of Oklahoma said Thursday.

The ordinance, written by Ward 6 council member Meg Salyer, would prevent persons from standing, sitting or staying on the “portions of any street or highway improved and open for vehicular traffic or any median for any purpose.”

But that same language, ACLU Legal Director Brady Henderson said, would also prevent media professionals from doing their jobs, eliminate public service activities such as the Fill the Boot Campaign -- a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association -- and  effectively outlaw the sale of periodicals such as the Curbside Chronicle.

“We understand city officials have a duty to keep the public safe,” Henderson said. “But this ordinance isn’t the way to do it. It’s far too broad. Stomping on the First Amendment and restraining media and news professionals from doing their job isn’t going to make the public safer.”

On Thursday ACLU Oklahoma sent letters to the eight-member city council, Mayor Mick Cornett and the Oklahoma City’s Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan. That letter, signed by Henderson and ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, said the proposed ordinance violated the United States Constitution.

Kiesel said the ordinance was discriminatory and "adds to the growing problem of criminalizing and punishing poverty" within Oklahoma City.

“Should this proposal pass and be enforced as currently contemplated, we anticipate the city will be forced to defend the ordinance against constitutional challenges,” the letter said.

Though controversial, the proposal has drawn the support of several members of the Oklahoma City council and the Oklahoma City Neighborhood Alliance. On September 23, the Neighborhood Alliance sent out an email which said the group supported the ordinance. The alliance also encouraged residents to contact their city council member.

Neighborhood Alliance has come out in favor of the ordinance, authored by Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer,” the message said.

Other groups including the Homeless Alliance, firefighters and members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association said they were opposed to the ordinance.

Brad Barghols, Chief Executive of the MDA's Central Division told an Oklahoma City television station that the Fill the Boot campaign would lose 70 to 80 percent of its revenue if the ordinance became law.

Henderson said ACLU of Oklahoma was concerned about the ordinance’s discriminatory effect and by the “incredibly broad prior restraint on speech in a traditional public forum.”

He said ACLU of Oklahoma has requested the city reconsider the amendment and engage in a process of drafting an ordinance that can survive constitutional scrutiny “by protecting, rather than suppressing the First Amendment rights of Oklahoma City’s citizens.