Sable Communications of Calif., Inc. v. FCC, 492 U.S. 115 (1989)

http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_88_515/

Facts of the Case:
In 1988, Congress amended the Communications Act of 1934 to ban indecent and obscene interstate commercial phone messages. Sable Communications had been in the dial-a-porn business since 1983. A judge in District Court upheld the ban on obscene messages, but enjoined the Act's enforcement against indecent ones.

Question:
Did the amended Communications Act violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion:
The Court upheld the District Court's ruling. Since the First Amendment does not protect obscene speech, as the Court found in Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton (1973), the ban on obscene speech was legitimate. However, sexual expression that is simply indecent is protected. Thus, banning adult access to indecent messages "far exceeds that which is necessary" to shield minors from dial-a-porn services.

Decisions

Decision: 6 votes for FCC, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 47 U.S.C. 223

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