Brownback Schedules Another Washington Porn Summit

Jeff Berg
WASHINGTON — United States Senator Sam Brownback, one of the leading politicians involved with the anti-adult entertainment movement, has scheduled another congressional hearing for Wednesday, this time to examine the repercussions of the recently dismissed federal obscenity charges leveled at Extreme Associates and its owners.

The hearing, held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights, will feature discussion about state interests in regard to regulating obscenity, according to a release issued by Brownback’s office.

The hearing will be presided over by Brownback, who holds a seat in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights.

Though Brownback and his spokespeople were unavailable for comment, they issued a statement saying that the meeting will also include constitutional scholars demonstrating how obscenity regulations do not interfere with First Amendment protections.

“In the decision of United States vs. Extreme Associates, U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster created an unwritten constitutional ‘right to possess and view sexually explicit material in the privacy of one’s own home,’” stated Brownback. “The hearing will illustrate the negative impact this decision can have on prosecuting producers of obscene material.”

Constitutional protections to possess obscene material within one’s home were first laid out in the 1969 Supreme Court case Stanley vs. Georgia, when the court ruled, “The First Amendment as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth prohibits making mere private possession of obscene material a crime.”

“Basically, we think that this is going to be the next step in their porn addiction approach to limiting free speech and adult entertainment,” said Michelle Freridge, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition. “Just like the last senate hearing, we were not notified or invited.”

According to Freridge, the FSC was notified of the hearings by a contact based in Washington and quickly contacted the subcommittee to ask if they could recommend some experts to speak. They were rebuffed.

“We were told that there are three invited speakers that are expert constitutional law professors, but that no one else was going to be allowed to speak at the event,” Freridge said.

Currently scheduled to deliver testimony at the hearing are Professor Robert Destroy from Catholic University of America; Professor William Wagner from the Thomas M Cooley Law School; and Frederick Schauer, a Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard University.

Written comments will be accepted during the meeting, however, and the FSC has begun soliciting those from a variety of First Amendment attorneys, with Jeffrey Douglas and Reed Lee writing the FSC’s own comments.

“We don’t know whether they’ll end up being read out loud during the meeting or not, but we expect to get written submissions from a wide range of attorneys,” Freridge said. “Basically, we’ve contacted all the First Amendment attorneys who have worked with us in the past.”