Guest Column

One victory in an ongoing war
By Patricia Nell Warren

Today, in Philadelphia, the federal three-judge panel has unanimously agreed to strike down the Communications Decency Act as unconstitutional. Today, as one author with books at risk from CDA enforcement, and as one of the plaintiffs in the case, I am happy about this victory for free speech.

But today is a single battle won in an ongoing war. Both the federal government and religious special-interest groups are determined to push censorship ever more broadly. Their excuse is that "youth must be protected". What they really have in mind is control, not protection. American people are also seeing this dark trend appearing at state and local levels. The government has the right to appeal, so it's likely that ACLU vs Reno/ALA vs DOJ will go before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the three judges gave a solid decision in favor of Internet free speech. It is a sign of hope for all media, and for the rich diversity of viewpoints that flood American life.

On behalf of everyone else at Wildcat Press, and all the young talent published in our e-zine YouthArts (which is co-published by us with John Waiblinger and Darin Weeks), I want to thank the three judges. Thanks to the attorneys and staff of ACLU and American Library Assn. for their hard work. And thanks to the other plaintiffs -- we found strength in numbers here.

I especially want to commend the four young people who quietly filed affidavits with the court. Of all the hundreds of thousands of kids who would be negatively affected by the CDA, Hunter Allen, Kit O'Connell, Rheana Parrenas and Christine Soto were the ones who personally spoke out on free speech for youth. They were not called as witnesses, or deposed by the Justice Department. But I do not doubt for a moment that these strong, clear, intelligent statements had their impact.

From today, the war goes on. Whether free speech has a final victory will depend not only on the Supreme Court, but on how many individual Americans speak out and demand that they have this right, tomorrow and in the years to come.

Patricia Nell Warren wrote "The Front Runner," "Harlan's Race" and other best-selling novels about gay life. She lives in Los Angeles, where she serves on the Gay & Lesbian Education Commission of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her publisher is Wildcat Press. Visit her Web page here.
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.