Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Scalia voices free speech views

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Making a rare public appearance since voting in the Bush v. Gore U.S. Supreme Court decision that settled the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia yesterday debated First Amendment rights at a Honolulu forum.

Scalia and American Civil Liberties Union national president Nadine Strossen participated in a lively and, at times, humorous debate before 1,000 people at the Davis Levin First Amendment Conference at the Japanese Cultural Center in Moilili.

Scalia and Strossen debated on a number of free speech items, including gays in the Boy Scouts, censorship on the Internet, and pornography.

Scalia said that pornographic material that was marketed solely for sex, such as that at an adult bookstore, could be classified as obscene.

"I don’t know how you can say it doesn’t affect the community, because it does," Scalia said. "If the community feels that a law should be passed on the matter, that is part of the democratic process."

Strossen believed the issue was one in which adults made their own decisions.

"There is no use arguing about what is good taste," Strossen said, "so there is no use in trying to regulate it, either. Because a person disagrees with something is no reason for suppression."

Strossen also believes the city’s law restricting street performances in Wai-kiki is unconstitutional.

While the forum dealt with free speech, the ACLU had to make some concessions to get Scalia to attend the Hawaii event. At Scalia’s request, no cameras or audio recording devices were allowed during the forum. Scalia also declined to speak with the media afterward.

An audience question-and-answer session at the end of the conference was abruptly cut short. Several participants had said they wanted to ask Scalia to discuss his decision on the Bush v. Gore case.

Scalia, who was among the majority in the 5-4 decision that halted Florida’s ballot recount, did not comment or make reference to the case during either the debate portion or question-and-answer period of the event.

Demonstrators inside and outside the Japanese Cultural Center held signs protesting Scalia’s position in the case that assured George W. Bush’s election to the White House.

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