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Suit challenges new sexually explicit retailer law

January 1, 2008
Several Indiana arts and publishing organizations have joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in a suit challenging the state's new law that requires sellers of sexually explicit material to register and pay a fee to the state.

The ACLU of Indiana, along with the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association, Freedom to Read Association, Big Hat Books, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and other groups, yesterday filed the suit, Big Hat Books, Boxcar Books and Community Center Inc., et al. v. Prosecutors, 1:08-CV-00596, in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana against every county prosecutor. The plaintiffs want a preliminary injunction, and later a permanent injunction, enjoining the enforcement of the statute. The plaintiffs also ask for attorney's fees and all other proper relief.

The suit challenges the constitutionality of House Enrolled Act 1042 that will require any person or organization - including all its employees - that wants to sell literature or other material deemed harmful to minors under Indiana law to register with the Secretary of State and pay a $250 filing fee. The plaintiffs claim the new law, which takes effect July 1, is unconstitutionally vague, an unjustified content-based restriction on activity that is protected, is a content-based punitive tax on First Amendment protected materials, and is irrational and violates due process.

The law doesn't apply to anyone or group who sells sexually explicit materials unless the business location changes after June 30, 2008; however, if a new employee is hired after June 30, he or she will be required to register with the state.

Several of the businesses in the suit are contemplating relocation or expansion in the upcoming months and would be subject to the new law. The plaintiffs worry that any material they sell - books, music, art, photos - that is considered sexually explicit under Indiana statute would require them to register with the state if they relocate even if the material isn't intended for the sale or use by minors, or if they hire a new employee after June 30. The plaintiffs claim having to register would label the businesses and organizations as purveyors of sexually explicit material and harm their reputation.

The suit claims the statue contains no guidance as to what types of materials must be registered with the Secretary of State and will lead to self-censorship in order to avoid the state's registration requirements.
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