DETROIT — A federal judge has ruled that a Michigan law that bars retailers from selling or renting violent video games to minors is unconstitutional.

The Entertainment Software Association, Video Software Dealers Association and Michigan Retailers Association, trade groups representing U.S. computer and video game publishers, filed a lawsuit in September, charging that the law is unconstitutionally vague and limits First Amendment rights.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the law in September, and it was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1. But U.S. District Judge George Steeh issued a preliminary injunction in November, putting the law on hold.

Steeh's ruling on Friday made the injunction permanent.

"Video games contain creative, expressive free speech, inseparable from their interactive functional elements, and are therefore protected by the First Amendment," he said in his ruling.

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, applauded the judge's decision in a statement, saying it "represents a sweeping rejection of the state's claims regarding the harmful effects of violent video games."

Utah lawmakers considered but ultimately rejected similar legislation during the 2006 Legislature. Rep. David Hogue, R-Riverton, sponsored the failed bill that would have made it a third-degree felony to sell violent video games to minors.

The bill would have amended Utah's Material Harmful to Minors Act to include inappropriate violence in video games that is glamorized, gratuitous, graphic, trivialized or doesn't "demonstrate the consequences or effects of realistic violence."

During the session, Hogue said he knew he "was doing something right when the ACLU sat next to me in a hearing and threatened" to take the bill to court. He also questioned whether children should see the violence in "mature-rated" video games such as "Grand Theft Auto 2."

The Michigan lawsuit named Granholm, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy as defendants.

"We . . . will be reviewing the judge's order and discussing legal options, including an appeal at the attorney general's office," said Heidi Watson, a spokeswoman for Granholm. "But we will continue our efforts to protect kids from violent video games by working with retailers."

Similar laws have been struck down or put on hold in several states, including California, Illinois and Washington.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret Morning News