Indiana Law Targets 'Explicit' Books A new Indiana law — due to take effect July 1 — would force any bookstore that sold even one book that could be broadly described as "sexually explicit" to pay a $250 license fee and be classified as an "adult bookstore."
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Indiana Law Targets 'Explicit' Books

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Indiana Law Targets 'Explicit' Books


Indiana Law Targets 'Explicit' Books

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In Indiana, a new state law is designed to give local communities a heads up if an adult store is moving into the area. By adult, we mean stores that sell stuff not suitable for kids. The law hasn't gone into effect yet, but it's being criticized for unintended consequence. Nearly all bookstores in Indiana would be labeled as quote, "vendors of sexually explicit products."

From member station WFIU in Bloomington, Adam Ragusea has a report.

ADAM RAGUSEA: The story of Indiana's new law regulating sellers of sexually explicit material begins here, along Interstate 65, about halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, where an adult superstore called The Lion's Den has been under siege for - how many days, Rob?

Mr. ROB PATTERSON (Volunteer, War-Line): Thousand and seven days.

RAGUSEA: Rob Patterson is one of about 50 volunteers with an anti-pornography group called War-Line. They've been out here every day since this store opened. When a customer pulls into the parking lot, his crew springs into action.

Mr. PATTERSON: This one's going to go in. First thing I'm going to do is get a picture of the plate, we're recording. Welcome to the Web site. Would you give us a smile, please?

RAGUSEA: That's right. If you visit the Lion's Den outside of Uniontown, Indiana, there's a good chance your face will end up on the Internet. But War-Line's beef is more with the store than with its customers. Nearby residents feel they were deceived by the proprietors, who told local officials they were building a convenience store. By the time it took shape as the adult emporium that it is today, it was too late.

State Representative TERRY GOODIN (Democrat, Indiana): Unfortunately, in certain parts of the state, the zoning laws and regulations aren't very strict.

RAGUSEA: This is where State Representative Terry Goodin comes in.

State Rep. GOODIN: I just felt a sense of outrage. The surrounding neighbors were good to these folks, and then they deceived them and lied to them. That's just not right.

RAGUSEA: So Goodin authored a bill that requires anyone who wants to start or relocate a business selling material deemed sexually explicit to register with the Indiana secretary of state. There's also a $250 registration fee. The bill sailed through the state legislature earlier this year, but now it's being challenged in federal court. Daniel Conkle teaches Constitutional law at Indiana University Bloomington. He thinks Representative Goodin's law is too broad to pass a First Amendment test.

Professor DANIEL CONKLE (Constitutional Law, Indiana University Bloomington): It doesn't require that the business predominantly focus on sales of sexually explicit material. It could be almost anything that is sexually explicit in any way, the kinds of things that might be sold at almost any time of stop and go place, bookstores. All kinds of things of things would be covered by this.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Ms. ABBEY FRIEDMAN (Proprietor, Boxcar Books): Boxcar Books.

RAGUSEA: This volunteer-run community bookstore in Bloomington is a party to the lawsuit against Goodin's bill. Proprietor Abbey Friedman worries she may get hit with a Class B misdemeanor if she doesn't pay her 250 bucks to register as a seller of adult materials.

Ms. FRIEDMAN: We definitely have books in the store that have nudity and sexual conduct. "Our Bodies, Ourselves," for example, is a really, really popular women's health book.

RAGUSEA: Back in front of the Lion's Den, Rob Patterson says everybody knows what kind of business this law is really targeting.

Mr. PATTERSON: All this is is a law to say tell the truth. Sexually oriented businesses have a right to exist, but they don't have a right to exist everywhere.

RAGUSEA: So much of this argument is about Indiana's image. At Boxcar Books, Abby Friedman thinks laws like this one only reinforce a perception of Indiana as a Bible-thumping backwater.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It's a astonishing that in 2008, a bill like this could get passed.

RAGUSEA: ACLU lawyers are asking for an injunction before the law goes into effect July 1st. Representative Goodin says he'll probably tweak the language and try again next year.

For NPR News, I'm Adam Ragusea in Bloomington, Indiana.


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