Montana Bill Would Allow Counties, Cities to Enact Obscenity Ordinances

Anne Winter
HELENA, Mont. — A bill proposed by the Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law would allow counties and cities to enact their own obscenity ordinances.

Dallas Erickson, head of the group that originally wrote and submitted the idea, told XBIZ that the bill could be decided upon as early as next week and would allow communities to pass laws more restrictive than those of the state of Montana.

Rep. Ron Stoker, R-Darby, is sponsoring the bill. He was unavailable for comment at press time.

Erickson’s main concern is access to and dissemination of “harmful materials” to minors. The bill would require stores selling adult materials — both hardcore and softcore — to hide covers and move them to “out of sight and out of reach” areas.

The addition of softcore materials, including Hustler and Penthouse, is new, expanding the definition of obscenity in the state.

Erickson said the current law only applies to businesses and that “molesters can still show [obscene material to kids].” The change would make it a crime for anyone to show obscene material to minors.

Erickson also said any resident of the county or city can draft an ordinance, but “they’d better know what they’re doing to make it constitutional.”

He stressed that no proposed ordinance that is considered unconstitutional will be accepted. For example, charging facilities for prominently featuring R-rated films or the swimsuit editions of sports magazines cannot be considered harmful to minors.

Libraries and theaters will not be required to hide or remove mainstream content featuring nudity, such as National Geographic, and Erickson said worrying that they’d be charged for providing such content to minors is “silly.”

“No [library or theater] has ever been charged with obscenity,” Erickson said. Materials with “serious literary, scientific, artistic or political value for minors” are exempt from the definition.