August 21, 2008
The Associated Press
PHOENIX — A federal judge has permanently barred Arizona from using a state law to prosecute an online merchant who sells shirts that list names of thousands of troops killed in Iraq.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake did not strike down the 2007 law against selling products that use military casualties’ names without families’ permission. But he ruled yesterday that using the law to prosecute Dan Frazier would violate the Flagstaff man’s First Amendment rights because his “Bush Lied — They Died” shirts are “core political speech.”
“It is impossible to separate the political from the commercial aspects of that display,” Wake wrote. “For example, the state argues that Frazier can sell his shirts without displaying the soldiers’ names. But Frazier’s product is his message, and his customers’ message.”
Arizona’s law was enacted with little debate by the Legislature, and Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have enacted similar laws.
A spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said Goddard’s office was reviewing the ruling and did not immediately know whether it would appeal.
“I always knew the Constitution was on my side,” Frazier said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
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