Before I launch into my tirade of the month, I have a few things I'd like to say. Firstly, a big thanks to everybody that emailed me with nice comments over my last article, on domestic partner legislation. I had expected mostly disagreement, and to be sure I did get a bit, but the overwhelming majority of replies were very positive. I was pleased by that, to say the least, since it lends credibility to the opinions I expressed. I thank everybody who wrote me. I appreciate it, even if it took a while for me to reply. While I'm at it, anyone reading this who has written me in the past, I know you may not have gotten a response yet but I'm really going to try and take care of some of my backlog. Some of my mail is months old. I've been very rude and for that I do apologize. Secondly, I would like to ask all of you reading this to also be sure to read the article by my friend Matt from Australia. He submitted his first article this month. I'd appreciate that a lot. Thanks.
OK, now for my rant. I was reading CNN.com today (I'm a news junkie. I can't help it.) and came across this interesting article: http://cnn.com/TECH/computing/9901/15/library.netporn.ap/. The subject of the article is a lawsuit in California against an Alameda County library. The plaintiff in the case, backed by a conservative think tank/action group, was a mother of a 12 year old boy. She sued because she caught her son with some dirty pictures obtained from the library's uncensored internet public access terminals. The good judge rightfully dismissed the case.
That's good. As has been argued in this forum many times before, internet filtering software usually blocks gay-related sites, perhaps even this one, arbitrarily, and often prevents young teens from reaching information that could be vital in the establishment of a positive self-image, as well as important health information targeted to young gays in this dangerous age of HIV/AIDS. Personally, I can say that the Net was invaluable to me in my early days of awakening, and continues to be an important part of my life.
But what really got me was the argument of the plaintiff's lawyer, who is, needless to say, appealing. He claimed that "providing" pornography in a library was a "violation of the constitutional rights of the children." Yes, that's really his argument. I'm not making it up. Go read the article if you don't believe me.
Now, I don't want to argue over whether it is OK or not OK for kids to view porn. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. My mother is a librarian and her library, here in country Pennsylvania, has filtering software installed. She tells me this grew out of an outrageous episode at a library in nearby Erie where a teen was caught, by a small girl nonetheless, with his pants down masturbating off some Internet smut, right in the library. That pretty much ended all staff debate on the matter. Unfortunately, the software is quite overbearing. Friends and I were doing legitimate research for history class and the software prevented access to a necessary site. I had to go home and print it out on my own system. The point I'm looking to make is not whether porn is really as bad as all that, but the argument the lawyer made.
Lawyers and average citizens alike have been in the business of inventing new "rights" a lot lately, all the better if they happen to be "Constitutional." I think we can safely agree that the Constitution makes no reference to children being protected from porn, nor anything even close. (For you non-Americans not familiar with the charter of American government, a copy is available online for your perusal at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/coredocs.html. Bear in mind that the Bill of Rights and all the subsequent amendments are also considered part of the Constitution.) But this lawyer, who presumably took a few classes on Constitutional Law in law school, seems to think that it does. Perhaps that lies under Amendment III (quartering) or VIII (cruel and unusual punishment). (Sarcasm.) It certainly doesn't seem compatible with the Big Number I, freedom of speech.
This phenomenon of zealous lawyers donating new "rights" to the American people, has already been analyzed, in no less a publication than "U.S. News and World Report." In the August 4, 1997 issue (in those innocent, pre-Monica times), columnist John Leo listed some of our newly established rights, at least according to ambitious trial lawyers. A few of the more interesting ones are the right to rubber sex toys, the right to rape, the rights of rocks, and the right to backpack. Read the entire column at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/4john.htm.
I honestly don't know what the hell my point in all this is, aside from that I wanted to rant about lawyers, and this is as good a forum as any, especially since I am late submitting again. Still, it does have some relation to our cause, as I hinted at above. After all, the article didn't say just what kind of porn the youngster printed off.
Evan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes any comments on this, or any article, you may have, even if you might not get an immediate response. He reads all his mail and does appreciate it.