Law Center - POSTED: 2010/09/21 10:34
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week found two Oregon statutes ostensibly aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of children to be unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment. The court found that a “furnishing” statute, (Oregon Revised Statutes § 167.054) (“section 054”), which made it a crime to provide children under the age of 13 with "sexually explicit"material, and a “luring” statute, (§ 167.057) which criminalized providing minors under the age of 18 with "visual, verbal, or narrative descriptions of sexual conduct," to be overly broad and potentially in violation of free speech protections.
While the state of Oregon had argued that the statutes applied only to “hardcore pornography,” the Ninth Circuit found that, as written, the laws could be applied to much more, including books like Judy Blume’s Forever, and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. "Although the state argues that the statutes may be construed to narrowly focus on the sharing of hardcore pornography or material that is obscene to minors alone, its position is contradicted by the statutory text," reads the court decision. "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. Despite the legislature’s laudable goals, we cannot rewrite the statute to conform to constitutional limitations."