Thursday, March 27, 2008

A New Law Passes Up In Indiana

Almost exactly a year ago, I did a post here about what happens when the government tries to kill an ant with a machine gun.

Consider this post deja vu all over again. Only this time it's the Indiana state government that's using a bulldozer to squeeze oranges for a glass of juice. Sweet mercy!

Gov. Mitch Daniels, Republican of Indiana [I really gotta change my party affiliation], signed House Enrolled Act 1042 into law last week. This gem of a statute will take effect on July 1. According to the Indianapolis Star, it "requires businesses that sell sexually explicit material to pay a $250 fee and register with the secretary of state, which would then pass the information to municipal or county officials so they can monitor the businesses for potential violations of local ordinances."

The law as passed will require bookstores--not adult bookstores, mind you, but your ordinary independent or chain bookseller--to register.

Publishers Lunch quoted the owner of Big Hat Books Elizabeth Barden as saying "the law could include 'just about any coming-of-age novel and books on health, hygiene and human sexuality'."

Republican Indiana State Senator Brent Steele, who was a co-sponsor of the bill [Note to self: Contact the Dallas County Elections Office today to get the paperwork to change my party affiliation] told the Indy Star "he believes bookstore owners are getting worked up over nothing . . . I just don't think that their concern is legitimate."

He went on to explain that the law "is aimed at 'helping counties that do not have zoning ordinances track businesses selling sexually explicit material, including videos, magazines and books,' especially adult stores that open along interstates in the southern part of the state." (Shelf Awareness)

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression doesn't agree with Senator Steele. According to their website here, the ABFFE supports booksellers "in the fight against censorship." Their site quotes the ABFFE president Chris Finan saying:

“It is un-American to force booksellers to register with the government based on the kinds of books they carry . . . It is also unconstitutional, and we intend to do everything we can to challenge this violation of the First Amendment rights of Indiana booksellers and their customers.”

Remember Elizabeth Barden, the owner of the Big Hat Books, quoted earlier in this post? She had a great line for the Indy Star: "On the one hand, we feel a need to censor ourselves, while on the other hand, we are spending our tax dollars to free the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people."

Amen, Sister, amen.

And where the hell is the telephone number for the Dallas County Elections Office?


Stephen Parrish said...

I'm no legal expert, but I don't believe this Act would stand in the face of a lawsuit from the ACLU or some other like-minded party.

Yeah, you gotta change your party affiliation. I did (to Independent) and it feels great. I don't want to be governed by people who think the Bible is a higher authority than the Constitution.

Maya Reynolds said...

Stephen: Several legal experts agree with you. Publishers Lunch quoted a scholar, saying the law was "overly broad and so ambiguous that it might violate constitutional rights."

It's the Bush Administration all over again.

MSWallack said...

For what it's worth, some of us in Indiana are speaking out about the idiocy of this new statute. I've posted on the subject twice this week (see Indiana Limits Freedom of Speech Where the Content Might Be Harmful to Minors and my update to that post.

Unfortunately, laws like this are just the tip of the iceberg of some of the laws that Indiana's General Assembly debates and frequently adopts.