Oregon Booksellers Once Again Free to Peddle Judy Blume Without Fear – Law Blog – WSJ

By Ashby Jones


Is it us, or does everything Powell’s Books touches turn to gold?

The Portland, Ore., bookstore — a crown jewel of the City of Roses — has throughout the Barnes-and-Amazon.com era of bookselling dominance, continued to thrive. Its website is pure joy for those who like to read.

And on Monday, word broke that it had won a big First Amendment lawsuit at the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit on Monday shot down two Oregon laws that prohibit making sexually explicit literature available to minors. The court, in this opinion, (authored by Judge Margaret McKeown), ruled the laws are unconstitutionally broad and infringe on free-speech rights. Click here for the LAT article; here for the Oregonian article.

The lawsuit, brought by Powell’s Books and a host of others, challenged the 2007 legislation, arguing that what might have been “a well-intended effort to target sexual predators” puts parents, publishers, educators and others at risk of fines or jail time.

The laws were intended to prevent predators from providing sexually arousing material to potential victims.

The first law, 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,” wrote the court on Monday.

The second law, restricting sexual references available to those under 18, “criminalizes fiction no more tawdry than a romance novel,” the judges added.

Powells and other appellants had argued in their appeal that if the laws were allowed to stand, a 17-year-old who lends her 13-year-old sister a copy of Judy Blume’s “Forever” could be arrested and prosecuted. Likewise, the plaintiffs warned, a health educator could be charged with a felony for discussing safe sex with anyone under 18.

Lawyers with the Oregon Department of Justice had not yet decided whether to appeal.


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