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March 09, 2016

Idaho to Repeal Law Banning Alcohol, Simulated Sex in Theaters

BOISE, Idaho—Idaho is a fairly conservative state, though home to a lot of libertarians, but one of its anti-porn laws was too much even for that right-wing crowd. Used to be that Idaho's indecency and obscenity code prohibited serving alcoholic beverages in any venue which displayed "Acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation or any sexual acts which are prohibited by law"; "Any person being touched, caressed or fondled on the breast, buttocks, anus or genitals"; "Scenes wherein a person displays the vulva or the anus or the genitals"; and "Scenes wherein artificial devices or inanimate objects are employed to portray any of the prohibited activities described in this section." And then came Fifty Shades of Grey (the movie, not the book), and one of eager beavers from Idaho's State Police attached to the state's Alcohol Beverage Control agency decided that because of the nudity and simulated sex scenes contained therein, he was going to pull the liquor license of the Village Cinema in Meridian because it had served beer and rum to two undercover detectives who bought VIP tickets to the movie. Almost needless to say, the Village Cinema's owners sued over the threat to their liquor license, arguing that the law which allowed the police to do that was an unconstitutional infringement of the cinema's First Amendment rights. The theater also contacted its state representative, Joe Palmer (R-Meridian), who authored a bill to repeal that section of the Idaho Code. That became House Bill 544, which carries the impressive title "An Act Relating To Prohibited Acts Regarding Alcohol Beverage Laws; Amending Section 23-614, Idaho Code, To Provide That The Showing Of Films, Still Pictures, Electronic Reproductions, Or Other Visual Reproductions Which Are In Violation Of State Indecency And Obscenity Laws Or Are In Violation Of Federal Law Regarding Pornography, Indecency Or Obscenity Is Prohibited In Or Upon Premises Licensed Pursuant To Title 23, Idaho Code, And To Make Technical Corrections; Declaring An Emergency And Providing Retroactive Application." Basically, the new law simply states that licensed premises can’t show films or pictures that violate state or federal obscenity laws, but anything short of that is okay. The bill fairly flew through the House State Affairs Committee, and with the sponsorship of Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls), the House quickly passed it as well. It now goes to the Senate for approval before it will likely be signed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (also, oddly, R). The text of House Bill 544 can be read here. Call it another victory for free speech.

 
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