Reflection on a Five Year Anniversary

The video of Zach Wahls speaking at that 2011 public hearing went viral and inspired thousands of Iowans who supported equality. Although Zach did not dissuade Iowa House Republicans from approving a state constitutional amendment on marriage the following day, Democrats in control of the Iowa Senate held the line. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Yesterday (January 31) marked the fifth anniversary of a three-minute speech that I delivered to the Iowa Legislature about growing up with gay parents. It was the first time I’ve celebrated an anniversary of this speech knowing that no speech like it will ever have to be given again in this state or country, following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling.

I had no idea when I stepped up to that microphone just how much the world would change in the next five years.

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Throwback Thursday: The road not taken on Iowa's "Ag Gag" law

A U.S. District Court ruling in August inspired today’s edition of Throwback Thursday. That ruling struck down an Idaho law making it a crime to lie to obtain employment at an agricultural facility, among other things. Iowa was the first state to adopt what critics call an “ag gag” law, aimed at making it harder for animal rights or food safety activists to obtain undercover recordings at farms or slaughterhouses. Idaho’s law went further than the bill Governor Terry Branstad signed in 2012; for instance, the Idaho statute also banned unauthorized audio or video recordings at a livestock farm or processing facility. Still, to this non-lawyer, some passages of federal Judge Lyn Winmill’s ruling (pdf) suggested that Iowa’s prohibition on “agricultural production facility fraud” might also violate the U.S. Constitution, specifically the First Amendment’s free speech clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Bleeding Heartland posted relevant excerpts from the Idaho ruling here, along with a brief legislative history of House File 589.

I sought Governor Terry Branstad’s comment on the court ruling and whether Iowa lawmakers should amend or rescind the language in Iowa Code about “agricultural production facility fraud.” In response, the governor’s communications director Jimmy Centers provided this statement on August 6:

House File 589 passed with bipartisan support and under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office. The governor has not had the opportunity to review the ruling from the federal court in Idaho and, as such, does not have a comment on the case.

“Under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office” didn’t sound right to me. When I looked further into the story, I learned that the Iowa Attorney General’s office neither recommended passage of this law nor signed off on its contents.

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Bad news for supporters of Iowa's "ag gag" law

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that criminalized lying to obtain employment at an agricultural facility or making unauthorized audio and video recordings at such facilities. Will Potter, one of the plaintiffs challenging the “ag gag” law, has been covering the case at the Green is the New Red blog. Judge Lyn Winmill’s ruling (pdf) found that the Idaho law’s provisions violated both “the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution.

The Iowa House and Senate approved and Governor Terry Branstad signed our state’s version of the “ag gag” law in 2012. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Although Iowa’s law differed from the Idaho statute in some ways, several parts of yesterday’s federal court ruling would appear to apply equally to Iowa’s law. After the jump I’ve enclosed the relevant language from both state laws and excerpts from Judge Winmill’s ruling.

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