Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One For The Good Guys: Maryland Regents Defy Legislative Porn Regulation Order

Of all the contentious issues regarding the availability of porn, nothing is more contentious than the issue of the availability of porn on college campuses....especially when legislators intervene to attempt to impose their own restrictive philosophies on the more liberal regimes of public universities.

In one such state -- Maryland -- there has been a recent ruckus over the proposed screening of a porn film -- Pirates 2: Fernghetti's Revenge -- at the University of Maryland at College Park; resulting in the Maryland Assembly passing laws requiring universities there to set up restrictive policies banning the screening of "obscene" material (which, it was hoped, would also include sexually explicit work considered to be "pornography").

Well...turns out that the Regents of Maryland -- the official ruling board for Maryland's state colleges and universities -- investigated the impacts of such regulations and decided to send a message back to the Assembly there:  "Thanks, but no thanks."

Quoting in full the story from the Washington Post, with particular emphasis added by me (h/t to Porn Perspectives):

Maryland universities defy order to regulate pornography

Regents of Maryland's state university system voted Wednesday to defy a legislative order to regulate pornography on campus, concluding that any such rules would be impossible to enforce. 

The legislature gave Maryland's state-funded universities until Dec. 1 to submit policies on "the displaying or screening of obscene films and materials," language written into the state budget in April.

Maryland's General Assembly asked for the rules in response to a dust-up over the proposed screening last spring of the adult film "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" at the University of Maryland. State Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) threatened to deny state funds if the university allowed a full screening. Instead, portions of the film were shown on campus. 

The university system consulted with the attorney general's office and with Robert M. O'Neil, a First Amendment expert at the University of Virginia. Researchers determined such a rule would make the University System of Maryland the first higher education entity in the nation to adopt rules for the acceptable use of pornographic films on campus. Upon further review, they decided it would be legally indefensible.

A report to the university system's Board of Regents from Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan states that any policy "would put the universities in an untenable position and subject [them] to legal challenges." 

Regents voted Wednesday afternoon to accept Kirwan's recommendation.

The review found that pornographic materials generally have constitutional protection unless they are deemed obscene. But "there are few, if any, films that have been declared obscene by any court," the report states. As a result, top legal minds "have not been able to draft a policy that is narrowly targeted toward 'obscene' films."

A broader rule to govern pornography would probably be found unconstitutional, the report states, because governmental restrictions on speech must be "content and viewpoint neutral," and cannot be confined to adult films.

Enforcing such a rule might require the creation of a panel to review all films shown on every campus for "purely entertainment purposes," the report states, to determine whether they might need to be augmented with an educational component.

That no other public university in the nation has a policy on pornographic displays "speaks volumes," the report states.

The legislative requirement applies to the 11 colleges and universities in the state system, along with Morgan State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland and Baltimore City Community College.

At least there are some college campuses where free speech is treasured and protected. Brava to 'ya. Maryland.

1 comment:

  1. Finally, some good news on the freedom of expression front. I'm glad to see an educational institution doing some pushback in that regard. In the past, universities have actually taken some very retrograde attitudes toward free speech, especially when it comes to "politically incorrect" speech like pornography.

    If I'm not mistaken, one the backers of the Maryland legislation was none other than John Foubert, the evangelical "feminist" who, along with Sam Berg, raised such a fuss over Ren's appearance at William and Mary. He's also been a major backer of the idea of keeping "porn" off of college campuses, even in a teaching context, because it is his belief that *any* exposure to porn turns men immediately into rapists. Note that he even defines the Sex Worker's Art Show as "porn" and has tried to block it on the same basis.