Federal judge halts enforcement of Iowa's newest ag-gag law

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A federal court judge says the state of Iowa cannot enforce its latest attempt to stifle undercover investigations of livestock farms and denied the state’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit challenging this year’s so-called ag-gag law.

The Republican-led legislature passed the state’s second such law in March, two months after a federal judge struck down the previous 2012 law, saying it violated constitutional free-speech rights.

The new law created a trespass charge for undercover investigators. Lawmakers claimed they crafted it more narrowly to avoid free speech claims.

However, U.S. District Judge James Gritzner said in his ruling filed Monday that the animal rights and civil rights groups filing the lawsuit had raised enough legal issues to allow the case to proceed.

Gritzner also prohibited the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit moves forward.

Similar laws in Idaho and Utah have been struck down as unconstitutional.