Federal Judge Rules that Iowa’s ‘ag gag’ Law is Unconstitutional

Donnelle Eller and Lucas Grundmeier reported on the front page of today’s Des Moines Register that, “A federal judge has ruled that Iowa’s ‘ag gag’ law is unconstitutional, saying the industry-backed statute violates the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.

“Senior Judge James Gritzner granted summary judgment Wednesday to a group that sued over the law.

“‘Today’s decision is an important victory for free speech in Iowa,’ said Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director.”

The Register article noted that, “Attorney General Tom Miller’s office, a defendant representing the state, said the office is considering whether to appeal.

The 2012 Agricultural Production Facility Fraud law made it a crime for journalists and advocacy groups to go undercover at meatpacking plants, livestock confinements, puppy mills and other ag-related operations to investigate working conditions, animal welfare, food safety and environmental hazards, among other practices.”

Eller and Grundmeier pointed out that, “In defending the law, the state argued that its restrictions were constitutionally permissible because they ensured biosecurity and private property protections.

“Gritzner said that wasn’t enough to outweigh First Amendment presumptions.

“‘Defendants have produced no evidence that the prohibitions’ of the law ‘are actually necessary to protect perceived harms to property and biosecurity,’ he wrote.

Iowa already has laws that protect private property and addresses biosecurity concerns, Gritzner said, making ag-gag state law unnecessary.”

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