Hawaii Law Limits Exposure of Adult Products

Rhett Pardon
HONOLULU — Hawaii has approved legislation that puts stringent restrictions on the visibility and location of adult entertainment products being sold in stores.

With the new law, signed in to law Wednesday night by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, businesses would be required to obscure and segregate all adult entertainment merchandise and content from view on the premises. Those persons in violation face a $100 fine.

House Bill 2885 faced opposition from the Media Coalition, a 1st Amendment advocacy group that includes numerous groups as members, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Video Software Dealers Association, the Magazine Publishers of American and nearly a dozen others.

“[We] believe that it threatens the distribution of 1st Amendment-protected material in Hawaii,” Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz said in a statement.

The Media Coalition contends that the law, as it is written, presents great difficulty for retailers, who now must decide what is obscene and what isn’t.

“The standard for material that must be segregated, ‘the sexual gratification of the user’ is vague and subjective,” Horowitz said.

The law additionally requires retailers to segregate adult entertainment products behind a curtain or screen, and that only adds to the practical problems in allocating store staff, causing retailers to lose adult customers who may not want to purchase material without browsing, according to the Media Coalition.

“Some bookstores carry hundreds of thousands of books and the task of reviewing thousands of new items received each year to determine whether they could be used for the sexual gratification of the user and that must be segregated is difficult, time consuming for staff and expensive for the proprietor,” Horowitz said.

The bill had bi-partisan support, chiefly because protection of children from obscenity on the islands is a large priority, according to a Capitol source.

“It’s all about the keiki [children] in Hawaii,” a source told XBIZ. “Many see it that if you limit kids’ exposure to what some see as obscenity, you vastly improve the quality of their upbringing.

The bill was introduced after a single mother from Wailuku said she was motivated to take action after her son stumbled upon a Maui store's conspicuous selection of sex toys.

After filing a complaint with the shopping center's management and getting no response, she brought the issue to the attention of local police. But police couldn’t mitigate the visibility of adult products with the store owner.

The bill takes effect Oct. 1, according to Lingle spokesman Russell Pang.