1985 August 27

Indianapolis Anti-Pornography Law Struck Down


In American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, decided on this day, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Indianapolis anti-pornography ordinance as a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, leaving the Circuit Court decision standing. The law had given individuals who felt they had been victimized by pornography the right to sue the producers and distributors of pornography. The law had been developed by feminist anti-pornography activists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. It was strongly opposed by civil libertarians on First Amendment grounds.

Similar laws were introduced in Minneapolis, but they never became law. The mayor vetoed one bill on December 30, 1983.

For more on the feminist anti-pornography movement, see the conference on November 17, 1978 and the march on Times Square in New York City on October 20, 1979.

The Seventh Circuit: “Totalitarian governments today rule much of the planet, practicing suppression of billions and spreading dogma that may enslave others. One of the things that separates our society from theirs is our absolute right to propagate opinions that the government finds wrong or even hateful.”

Read: Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981)

Read the Media Coalition report on Catharine MacKinnon: http://mediacoalition.org/files/Catharine-MacKinnon-report.pdf

Read the civil liberties position: Nadine Strossen, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight For Women’s Rights (1995)

Learn more about the feminist anti-pornography movement: Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2013)

Learn more about the myths and facts about pornography: Marcia Pally, Sense and Censorship: The Vanity of the Bonfires (1991), http://mediacoalition.org/files/Sense-and-Censorship.pdf

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