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State Porn Law Goes In Effect

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Jan 1, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 

MICHIGAN – A state law goes into effect by the first day of the New Year that will require store owners to conceal adult entertainment content from the general public or contain it in restricted areas. Although many free speech advocates are already up in arms over the law's potential threat to the First Amendment.

The law in question will require retailers to conceal the lower two-thirds of sexually "explicit" publications or put them in a separate area to avoid exposure to underage store patrons. The law pertains to book covers, magazines, video boxes, sex manuals, romance novels, and more mainstream men's and women's magazines.

The law was signed by the state's Governor Jennifer Granholm and will focus on regulating bookstores, video retailers, magazine kiosks, and all media retail outlets.

Detroit Rep. Triette Reeves drafted the bill in response to complaints from parents who felt that porn magazines and adult material should be kept from immediate view of store patrons, the Associated Press reported.

If store owners do not abide by Michigan's new regulations, they could face misdemeanor charges, possible jail time, and a $5,000 fine.

A First Amendment group based in New York has announced plans to challenge the new law based on the fact that it potentially inhibits adults from their right to access a broad range of media material.

"We don't dispute that minors don't have a right to look at this material," David Horowitz, executive director of The Media Coalition Inc., told the AP. "The problem is, how do you do that without barring access to adults who have a right to it."

Free speech advocates believe that while the law is intended to conceal more hard core magazine content, it could potentially include the concealment of art books and erotica.

Despite a period of lengthy debate between business owners and anti-porn advocates, the new law determines that sexually explicit material involves "nudity, sexual excitement, erotic fondling, sexual intercourse, or sadomasochistic abuse."

Earlier versions of the legislation would have outlawed the display of R-rated movies such as "Pretty Woman."

Additionally, many retailers feel that the law could "stifle" the amount of media content that is available to the public in the future. There is also outrage over the cost the law will levy against business owners who will be required to cover the bottom two thirds of any materials that fall under the terms of "sexually explicit."

Horowitz and The Media Coalition fear that the law could also extend over to controlling listening booths where music is sampled by patrons, which in some cases contain lyrics that are considered obscene or offensive.

However supporters of the law contend that it is no different from current laws in Ohio and Indiana that require store owners to abide by the same protective measures when it comes to keeping porn and adult content away from children.

In the meantime, the world's most successful convenience store, 7-Eleven, has announced plans to return porn to its shelves after a 17-year ban. According to the store's management, an estimated 5,300 nationwide chain stores will now offer adult entertainment publications, among them the 50th anniversary issue of Playboy.

The convenience store chain stopped featuring porn around 1986, due in part to pressure from family and child advocacy groups and the more negative public perception of porn during that time period. XSF 08 Day 1 in Pictures: The Pool Scene

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