(CN) – Two Oregon laws that prohibit making sexually explicit books and other materials available to minors are too broad and infringe on free-speech rights, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The two statutes are intended to stop child sexual abuse in its early stages by keeping materials that could be used to “groom and lure” children out of their hands.
But the laws faced opposition from a variety of corners, including booksellers, nonprofit organizations and a concerned grandmother who challenged them in a federal lawsuit, claiming the laws violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
A federal judge rejected the claim and ruled that the laws were not unconstitutionally overbroad.
A federal appeals panel in Portland, Ore., reversed, noting that the laws ban material from strong pornographic images to the drawings of sex acts in “The Joy of Sex” to the cartoon depictions of sex in the children’s book, “Mommy Laid an Egg: Or, Where Do Babies Come From?”
The 9th Circuit ruled that the laws were too broad and criminalized a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech.
The judges rejected the state’s claim that the laws could be interpreted to narrowly focus on hardcore pornography or material that’s obscene to minors only. That argument “is contradicted by the statutory text,” the court ruled.
“We may not uphold the statutes merely because the state promises to treat them as properly limited,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote.