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Opening Arguments

It's a dirty business

Good new for porn fans in southern Indiana:

New Albany Mayor Doug England said Monday he's inclined to end the city's six-year legal fight to close an adult bookstore after the Supreme Court announced it won't take up the case.

The high court declined to hear the city's appeal in the six-year fight to close New Albany DVD, the business at 601 W. Main Street now known as Cleopatra's.

Actually, "porn" is just the common usage, the legal term being "obscenity," which the Supreme Court has struggled to define for decades. The definition currently in play -- appeals to prurient interests, depicts or describes sex in an offensive way, lacks serious merit on the whole (I paraphrase) -- comes from a 1973 case in which the court also ruled that local rather than national standards could be used to decide whether something was prurient or offensive.  We don't know, because they didn't say, why the justices decided not to hear the New Albany case, but a logical reason would be that they didn't think it needed to rise above state or local jurisdiction -- "Don't make a federal case out of this."

The definitions of porn are impossibly vague, but the "local standards" part doesn't bother me as much as some may think it should. Fort Wayne isn't Los Vegas, and people in each city should have the ability to decide what kind of city they want. A columnist (I think it may have been Charles Krauthammer) once said it made sense to have looser or stronger laws on obscenity depending on how "public" it was -- for example, much tougher laws governing a drive-in theater whose screen could be seen from the road, much more lenient ones (or none at all) for a DVD you'd watch at home.  That seems rational, too.

The peculiar thing, given what can be seen online and what can be ordered from websites, is that so many places like Cleopatra's still exist.