by Randy Lee Payton

A bill has been introduced into the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which would grant individual jurisdictions around the state the right to define and prosecute citizens involved in producing or distributing "materials" deemed "obscene" by the courts within those jurisdictions (applying their own versions of "contemporary community standards.")

According to the bill, titled PA. HB 881, these "materials" would include (quote) "Any literature, including any book, magazine, pamphlet, newspaper, storypaper, bumper sticker, comic book or writing; any figure, visual representation, or image, including any drawing, photograph, picture, videotape or motion picture" as well as "any play, dance or other live exhibition performed before an audience," which a vaguely-defined "average person" would find as appealing "to the prurient interest." Graphic depiction of S/M (Submissive/Master roleplay) is singled out under this bill (pejoratively called "sadomasochistic abuse") along with "depictions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated."

Those found in violation of the above standards would be, under this proposed bill, guilty of a felony of the third degree. Passage of this legislation would have broad implications not only for dance clubs, dancers and people in the adult industry but for artists and galleries, and even, yes, libraries and museums, as well. Passage of HB 881 would very likely directly affect access to birth control information and have a chilling effect upon sex educators in communities and schools across Pennsylvania.

HB 881 has ALREADY passed the State Judiciary Committee and is on it's way to the full state Senate in the weeks ahead. Defeating this legislation will require a broad coalition of public forces, drawing from those individuals and concerns most directly targeted by local zealots (who could be counted to wield such legislation like a club), together with civil libertarians and "just plain folks" who will stand with us against this proposed, further trashing of the Bill of Rights.

Meetings and fund-raisers as well as a petition campaign targeting HB 881 are already underway in the Western part of the state (Pittsburgh area). Across the river, the free-expression activist group Rock Out Censorship has agreed to act as a pro-tem clearing house on the status of the bill and what's being done to mobilize against it. For more information, call R.O.C. at (740) 946-2011 or write: ROC, P.O. Box 147, Jewett, Ohio 43986. Stop HB 881!

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