Brief Fact Summary. This is an appeal by an owner of two adult theatres that explicitly warned viewers that the content of its movies may be offensive and required all viewers to be twenty-one years of age. The owner was enjoined from showing his movies by the state supreme court.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. States have a legitimate interest in regulating commerce of obscene material and in regulating exhibition of obscene material in places of public accommodation, including so-called “adult” theatres from which minors are excluded.
Issue. Did the injunction against the showing of the films violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
Held. Maybe not. Judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia vacated and remanded for further proceedings. Nothing precludes the state of Georgia from the regulation of the allegedly obscene material exhibited in this case, provided that the applicable Georgia law, as written or authoritatively interpreted by the Georgia courts, meets First Amendment constitutional standards. State legislatures may conclude that a sensitive key relationship of human experience can be debased by crass commercialization of sex. A man’s right to privacy exists within his home and thus, he may enjoy obscene materials within his private abode, but if he wants to obtain obscene materials in the public market and to foregather in public places, that would affect everybody. Therefore, a state has a legitimate interest in regulating commerce of obscene material and in regulating exhibition of obscene material in places of public accommodation, including so-called “adult” theatres from which minors are excluded.
Dissent. None of the available formulas, including the one announced today, can reduce the vagueness of our obscenity standards to a tolerable level.
Discussion. All the Justices agree that obscenity may be regulated to prevent unwilling exposure to minors. This case shows that the state legislatures have the power to regulate obscenity in commerce.