The Libertarian Party of Iowa and a constituent of Claire Celsi’s state senate district are suing Celsi for allegedly violating citizens’ free-speech rights on Twitter.
The party and West Des Moines resident Thomas Halterman filed the lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The complaint accuses Celsi of unconstitutional actions for blocking several people from her Twitter account, @claire4iowa, after a discussion of gun owners’ rights.
Libertarian Party of Iowa Chairman Joseph Howe contends the Twitter actions are a violation of the First Amendment. A federal court previously held that President Donald Trump’s blocking of people on his Twitter account violated the constitutional right of citizens to petition government officials.
“After a civil conversation on the matter, Senator Celsi blocked several of the participants from her Twitter account, demonstrating a general lack of regard for the diverse political voices of Iowans everywhere,” a news release from the Libertarian Party states.
Because the senator’s political agenda is discussed on her Twitter account, Celsi needs to respect her constituents’ free-speech rights to take part in this public forum, Howe said.
“Blocking Iowans from her Twitter account degrades the citizen’s ability to exercise his or her First Amendment rights by restricting the ability to engage in discourse with an elected official,” Howe said in the news release. “Indeed, days after tweeting that journalists are ‘guardians of our democracy,’ Senator Celsi blocked Adam Sullivan of the Cedar Rapids Gazette from her Twitter account.”
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Celsi from blocking Halterman or any Twitter user from her Twitter page. It also seeks damages of $1 per plaintiff plus attorney fees and related costs.
The state senator responded to television station KCCI in Des Moines with the following statement:
“I have two public social media pages that I use to get information out to my constituents, and those are public. Anyone is welcome to follow me there. Also, I answer my own email and phone calls – my direct contact information is published, and people can get directly in touch with me about legislative or community issues.”