Suit Opposes Ohio Obscenity Law

Suit Opposes Ohio Obscenity Law
Tod Hunter
CINCINNATI — The manager of Cincinnati's Hustler Hollywood store is suing Ohio's attorney general in an attempt to overturn part of a new state law that would require persons convicted of selling obscene material to register as sex offenders.

"She's not been convicted or charged with anything. She's frightened," attorney Lou Sirkin said Monday.

The woman, identified only as G.B. in the suit, is afraid, Sirkin said, because under the current law, if she sells something at the store that is decided to be obscene — even years later — the law requires her to register as a sex offender for 15 years.

If she were convicted of selling obscene material and required to report in as a sex offender, Sirkin said, that likely would result in her two children being kicked out of their Catholic school because it requires background checks, and would end her volunteering as a school volleyball coach.

A spokesman for the attorney general told reporters that his office is aware of the suit and is prepared to defend Ohio laws.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to overturn as unconstitutional part of Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which became effective Jan. 1.That law increased the reporting aspects, resulting in sex offenders — or those convicted of certain related crimes, including pandering obscenity — being required to register as sex offenders for longer periods of time.

A person convicted of pandering obscenity in Ohio could be sent to prison for 12 months and would have to register as a sex offender for 15 years. The registration information also is publicly available and posted on government and law-enforcement websites and would embarrass G.B., the suit notes. The suit also said the current law violates G.B.'s rights of free speech and privacy.

Sirkin, a longtime lawyer for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, has battled over obscenity and other First Amendment issues often in Hamilton County, including the 1990 prosecution of the Contemporary Arts Center for a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit some called obscene.

"G.B. fears facing obscenity charges due to the history of censorship and strict enforcement of obscenity laws in Hamilton County, which includes multiple criminal obscenity charges arising out of Hustler business ventures in Cincinnati," the suit notes.

Because of the woman's fear of being convicted of pandering obscenity and having to register as a sex offender, she has put off an expansion of the Hustler store downtown, something the store's strong sales suggest should be done, according to the suit.

The suit also seeks an injunction seeking to stop the enforcement of that portion of the Ohio law, for the woman to not be identified further than her initials for the sake of the suit and for the state to pay her attorney fees.