Anti-war T-shirts displaying the names of slain American service members are political speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a new state law that makes it a misdemeanor to sell items that use names of slain troops without permission of their families.
Flagstaff resident Dan Frazier, who sells the T-shirts with the names of nearly 3,500 troops who died in Iraq and the words “Bush Lied — They Died,” had sought the preliminary injunction.
The requirement of getting permission from families amounts to a flat prohibition “given the difficulty and cost of finding, contacting and obtaining consent from the soldiers’ numerous representatives,” U.S. District Judge Neil Wake wrote.
Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have enacted similar laws.
Arizona’s law was enacted last May with little debate by the Republican-led Legislature and signed in short order by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Frazier, who continues to sell the shirts, welcomed Wake’s decision but acknowledged that the outcome of his legal challenge remains undecided.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona supported Frazier in filing the lawsuit. Dan Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona legal director, called the ruling a victory “from the Arizona Legislature’s illegal attempt to keep speech about the human costs of the Iraq war out of the public discourse.”
Margy Bons, a slain Marine’s mother who has threatened to sue Frazier, said it was hurtful that Frazier ignored the wishes of service members and their families by using names without permission.
“He’s not a decent human being,” Bons said. “Some day he’s going to meet his maker and he’s going to meet a lot of unhappy people.”