The Des Moines Register reports that U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose has ruled that "Iowa's efforts to bar animal rights activists from gaining access to commercial livestock operations" is unconstitutional, saying that the state government does not have the right to stop activists from speaking out - and making public video recordings - about what they feel is animal abuse at livestock facilities.
This is the fourth time that various iterations of this law have been struck down to at least some degree.
Here's how the Register frames the issue:
"The decision Monday is the latest strand in a tangle of legislation and litigation over the issue of agricultural trespass laws. Since 2012, Iowa has passed four of the statutes, which opponents refer to as 'ag-gag' laws. They target various conduct by animal rights activists who have published video and images from inside large livestock facilities, sometimes infiltrating them by signing on as employees without revealing their true intent.
"Animal rights groups filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the first, second and fourth laws. The first law was initially blocked by a federal judge, but was partially revived on appeal. The second law also was blocked, and an appeal is currently pending. Monday's ruling concerns the fourth law, which was adopted in 2021.
"The law in question applies to any person who, while trespassing, 'knowingly places or uses a camera or electronic surveillance device that transmits or records images or data while the device is on the trespassed property.' A first offense is an aggravated misdemeanor, while subsequent offenses are felonies."
While the judge said that "a private landowner has some rights to block others' First Amendment activity on their property, the government does not have the same authority."
- KC's View:
I'm a "sunlight is the best disinfectant" kind of guy, so I think this is a good ruling. Governments shouldn't be in the business of gagging some of its citizens because it gets more tax money - and probably more political donations - from other citizens.