New Anti-porn Legislation Proposed

New Anti-porn Legislation Proposed
Michael Hayes
WASHINGTON — Angry over rulings by federal courts striking down anti-porn legislation on 1st Amendment ground, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-UT, has proposed a new bill that would take jurisdiction in such cases away from the federal courts and make states the ultimate arbitrators of what constitutes obscene material.

H.R. 5528, known as the Pornography Jurisdiction Limitation Act of 2006, was introduced by Cannon in an effort to stop courts from functioning as legislatures, the congressman said.

“It is not the job of the courts to legislate,” Cannon said. “My legislation puts the power to protect families back in the hands of the states, where it rightfully belongs. If there are those who believe a state’s anti-pornography laws are too strict, they can find another state in which to live.”

Cannon’s bill lays out sweeping language to institute his reform of the 1st Amendment landscape, reading in part:

“No court created by Act of Congress shall have jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide a question of whether a state pornography law imposes a constitutionally invalid restriction on the freedom of expression.”

Whether Cannon’s dream of a balkanized litigation field for pornography issues comes to pass could be another matter, according to Tom Hymes, communications director for the Free Speech Coalition.

“We’re concerned about the bill, but not overly so,” Hymes told XBIZ. “This kind of thing has been tried before, and it has failed. In this case, the bill just seems very problematic from a constitutional perspective.”

According to attorney Reed Lee, if the so-called court-stripping language were to become law, it would dramatically reverse the Free Speech Coalition’s Utah litigation because it would prohibit federal courts from hearing much of the case.

“This is a serious issue because it is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Lee told XBIZ. “But I don’t think it’s likely to go anywhere because a lot people across the political spectrum realize that this is a very powerful tool that can cut any number of ways. If it were to pass, I think a broad coalition would line up to stop it on legal grounds that have little to do with the free speech issue.”

In Cannon’s written statement announcing the bill, which will go to the House Judiciary Committee, he cited the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision overturning a ban on virtual child pornography as well as his support of the Child Online Protection Act.