Ninth Circuit: Two Oregon laws barring minors’ access to sexually explicit materials are unconstitutional

by on September 22, 2010  •  In Constitutional law

The Ninth Circuit has ruled in Powell's Books v. Kroger that two Oregon laws that prohibit making sexually explicit literature available to minors violate the Constitution because they are too broad and infringe on free-speech rights.

The laws were intended to prevent abusers from providing sexually arousing material to children in an effort to lower a child's resistance to engaging in sexual conduct. The first, intended to shield children under 13 from all sexually explicit content, "reached a substantial amount of material that does not appeal to the prurient interest of a child under 13, but merely appeals to regular sexual interest," according to the Court of Appeals. The second law, restricting sexual references available to those under 18, "criminalizes fiction no more tawdry than a romance novel." 

[S]peech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them.

Writing for the court, Judge Margaret McKeown found that "In their current form, the statutes sweep up a host of material entitled to constitutional protection, ranging from standard sexual education materials to novels for children and young adults by Judy Blume."


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