An Iowa “ag-gag” law has again been found unconstitutional by a federal court, marking the latest defeat for Iowa legislators.
The law seeks to forbid animal-rights activists from gaining access to food processing plants, farms and other private property to record instances of animal abuse. U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose ruled that it violates the First Amendment rights of the activists.
Iowa had passed such a law previously and had it similarly struck down by a federal court. That ruling was reversed in part by an appeals court, which ruled that making false statements on an employment application is protected by the First Amendment, but accessing private property under false pretenses can be criminalized.
While that case was under appeal, the Iowa legislature passed another law attempting to deal with the constitutional problems of the first. That was the law Rose struck down. She ruled that while the government can designate specific types of businesses as entitled to special legal protection, “the First Amendment does not allow those protections to be based on a violator’s viewpoint."
Rose temporarily blocked the law and will hold hearings later on the scope of a permanent injunction.
“It is incomprehensible that Iowa legislators continue to waste Iowans’ taxpayer dollars to pass and defend unconstitutional laws that suppress free speech simply to protect their own financial interests,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement.