- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

House Republican leaders are pushing for fast action on a child-pornography bill that would circumvent the Supreme Court's decision allowing computer simulations of children having sex.
"Our intention is to put the bill on the fast track to get it into law quickly to protect children," said Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
House leaders are planning a floor vote on the bill the week of May 20, Mr. Roy said. May is Victims of Pornography Month, and May 25 is National Missing Children's Day.
Greg Crist, spokesman for Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said, "There is a desire among leadership to move this as quickly as possible."
The Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act of 2002 would outlaw trafficking in child pornography, expand the definition of child pornography to include computer imaging and prevent defendants from blocking prosecution by claiming the material was an electronic creation.
It was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, and will be the subject of a hearing and markup in Mr. Smith's Judiciary crime subcommittee today.
The measure is a response to an April 16 Supreme Court decision to strike down a 6-year-old law prohibiting the distribution and possession of child pornography that appeared to but did not depict real children. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, said the law violated the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.
"In ruling that statute unconstitutional, they opened the door to child pornography," Mr. Smith said.
Jeff Lungren, spokesman for House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said the ruling caused, "strong bipartisan outrage" in Congress.
He said the full House Judiciary Committee will consider Mr. Smith's bill next week.
"In a world where virtual images are increasingly indistinguishable from reality, we need to protect children more than ever," Mr. Crist said.
Voting with the majority in the Supreme Court ruling were Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Clarence Thomas. Those who opposed the ruling were Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Antonin Scalia as well as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
Mr. Smith said the court found the existing statute was too sweeping because the images in question could actually depict adults or older teens, not children.
Mr. Smith said his bill is limited to prepubescent children, 12 years old or younger, to address the court's concern.
It also addresses the court's concern that the statute used overly broad language in describing the images, he said.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the existing law could have been used to ban modern versions of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and award-winning movies such as "Traffic" and "American Beauty."
"The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea that of teen-agers engaging in sexual activity that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages," Justice Kennedy wrote.
Justice Thomas, in a separate concurring opinion, said the court's ruling appropriately struck down a ban that was too sweeping, but left a window for future regulation of some kinds of virtual child pornography.
In the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, is studying the court opinion to "see exactly how we can craft new legislation to punish the sexual exploitation of children consistent with the court's decision."
Mr. Roy said House leaders are hoping that by moving legislation quickly through the House, the Senate will be encouraged to do the same.


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