Federal judge strikes down Iowa’s ag-gag law ruling it a violation of free speech

"Today's victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights."

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An Iowan federal judge recently struck down the state’s “ag-gag” law calling it unconstitutional. On Wednesday, Senior Judge James Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa declared the law, which tries to stop journalists and activists from going undercover and reporting on factory farms and other commercial animal facilities, a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Judge Gritzner further ruled that the state’s lawyers failed to prove that the prohibitions on speech “are actually necessary to protect perceived harms to property and biosecurity.” He went on to argue that the “prohibitions are not narrowly tailored to serve either interest.”

“Where a particular Amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of substantive due process, must be the guide for analyzing these claims.”

The decision is being called “an important victory for free speech” by legal groups and animal rights activists challenging Iowa’s ag-gag law.

“Ag-gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States,” Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director, said in a statement. “Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”

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