Ohio Anti-porn Law Is Constitutional, 6th Circuit Rules

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court has ruled that 2002 Ohio law that attempts to shield minors from obscene material on the Internet is constitutional as interpreted by the state Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a lower court ruling and found that O.R.C. § 2907.31 does not violate free speech and other rights.

The law, titled Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles, was later amended, and the state Supreme Court interpreted it to apply to personally directed communications and not public websites and chat rooms.

"Ohio has an interest in preventing minors from potentially harmful materials and, as the statute applies only to personally directed communication between an adult and a person that the adult knows or should know is a minor, the statute is the least restrictive means of promoting this interest," the 6th Circuit panel ruled.

First Amendment attorney Michael A. Bamberger — who represents American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression — argued that the law, meant to shield children from online pornography and predators, violates free speech and is vague.

Ohio’s statute initially prohibited dissemination to juveniles of material considered "harmful to juveniles," but the law was blocked by U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice because he ruled its terms did not comply with a U.S. Supreme Court obscenity precedent, Miller vs. California.

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