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Historic Supreme Court decisions: free expression on the internet and protection for consensual sex

aclureno.jpegToday marks the anniversary of two important US Supreme Court decisions. Reno v. ACLU (announced on June 26, 1997) is close to our heart, as it was the first major Supreme Court ruling regarding the regulation of materials distributed via the Internet. The case involved the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress in an attempt to protect minors from explicit internet material by criminalizing the intentional transmission of certain messages and images. The Court ruled that the Act violated the First Amendment because its regulations amounted to a content-based blanket restriction of free speech.

In Lawrence v. Texas (announced five years ago today), the Supreme Court struck down a Texas consensual-sodomy law in alawrencetexas.jpeg prosecution involving two men who were having sex in a private home. The Court ruled that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Lawrence has had the effect of invalidating similar laws throughout the United States that purport to criminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults acting in private.