Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A late Valentine’s day story

Thanks to Nichole for putting me onto this wonderful piece of US constitutional law from Geogia, where a state law criminalizes "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent" suggestions made by telephone. County prosecutor Inez Grant had the unrewarding task of defending this rather … Southern … piece of morals legislation in the face of the constitutional protection of free speech before Justice Robert Benham of the Georgia Supreme Court. The judge mused aloud as to whether a salacious Valentine’s day call to your romantic partner could land you in jail.
"You need to know," Grant told Benham later, that a lascivious telephone call to your wife could bring prosecution.” Benham thought a moment and deadpanned, "I'll pick her up and talk to her in person."

This apparently brought the house down. It wasn’t the only spontaneous outburst during the case:
Most of the court members appeared highly skeptical of the law's constitutionality. When Grant first brought up her argument that the state could regulate telephone speech because it regulates telephones, Justice Carol W. Hunstein exclaimed, "What?"

Indeed. This would imply that anything the state could regulate excludes human rights protections … in which case why would you have constitutionally guaranteed rights at all? They’d just be rather pretty little statements that didn’t actually apply to limit State power.

The ruling isn’t out, but I suspect the right to make lascivious phone calls will prevail.

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