Just last week, a strong majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 1999 federal law outlawing certain videos depicting animal cruelty and other weird practices involving animals (so-called “crush videos”) was overly broad and operated as an unconstitutional infringement of First Amendment rights. I was one of the few members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against the legislation at the time of its passage. I did so for the same reasons the Supreme Court threw out the statute last week — not because any of us find the activity protected by the First Amendment to be laudable (far from it); but because it sweeps too broadly and attaches criminal penalties to a person’s right to freedom of expression.
Moreover, it is not as if true acts of animal cruelty would go unpunished without this federal law in place; virtually every state already criminalizes such practices. The high Court decision, and my vote against the legislation 11 years ago, simply reflect