A federal judge will hear arguments beginning next Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that accuses the Kansas State Fair of violating the animal rights group’s free speech rights. PETA filed the suit Monday that names the Kansas State Fair Board, the state and the fair’s general manager, Denny Stoecklein, as defendants.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten, Wichita, Kan., will preside over the hearing on PETA’s request for the court to block the restrictions placed on its booth for this year’s fair, which begins on Friday, Sept., 7, in Hutchinson. Marten has been called a staunch defender of the First Amendment.
At issue is a 13-minute video PETA wants to show at its booth at the Kansas State Fair containing undercover images from slaughterhouses and factory farms. The video, narrated by ex-Beatle and vegetarian Paul McCartney, is described as “gruesome” by PETA.
The Kansas State Fair told PETA they can’t show a video or pictures “that depict animal slaughter, animal harvest, hide removal, or show or depict live animals being decapitated, dismembered or butchered.” Further, such images must “not be readily visible to passersby or the general public on any side of the booth.”
PETA argues the content-based restrictions violate its free speech rights because the fair is a public forum. The Kansas attorney general's office contends the restrictions are lawful and has vowed to zealously defend fair officials. The sides will argue on whether to grant a restraining order blocking enforcement of the restrictions.
Judge Marten was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, and has a record that shows an unwavering deference to free speech rights.