Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, Paris Adult Theatre (Petitioner), was convicted of violating state obscenity laws for showing pornographic films to adults.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. States may regulate the exhibition of obscenity amongst consenting adults because they have a legitimate interest in the well being of the community.
The Petitioner is an adult movie theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. In late 1970 it featured 2 films that were described by the state as “hard core pornography” leaving “little to the imagination.” The theatre clearly advertises that it exhibits mature adult films to persons 21 years and older.
Issue. Is the state law a constitutional restriction on obscenity?
Held. Yes. States have a legitimate interest in regulating commerce in obscene material and the exhibition of such material.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
The Fourteenth Amendment requires that regulation by the States of obscenity conform to procedures that will ensure against the curtailment of constitutionally protected expression, which is often separated from obscenity only by a dim and uncertain line. View Full Point of Law
Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan): A proper test to identify obscenity has not been established. This decision encroaches upon the First Amendment right to free speech. The state has a legitimate interest to protect minors from being exposed to porn, but no such interest exists within the adult population.
Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas): Obscenity is not an exception to the First Amendment. The material is not being forced on individuals they are choosing to watch it. So, this law interferes with the freedom of intellect. Discussion.
The secondary effects of obscenity are discussed as a negative influence on the community. The state has a vested interest in protecting the community from antisocial behavior and corruption often associated with the existence of adult movie theaters.