It was constitutionally permissible for New York, insofar as N.Y. Penal Law § 484-h does so, to accord minors under 17 a more restricted right than that assured to adults to judge and determine for themselves what sex material they may read or see. Section § 484-h does not invade the area of freedom of expression constitutionally secured to minors.
The state of New York had an ordinance which outlawed the sale of material deemed obscene to minors under 17 years of age. Appellant store owner was found guilty of selling an obscene magazine to a sixteen year old boy. Appellant argued that the ordinance violated the constitutional freedom of expression. He contended that the right to see or read material associated with sex should not be determined on the person’s age. The trial court deemed the law constitutional and the appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Is the New York ordinance a violation of the constitution?
No. The Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions.
The Court determined that the concept of obscenity may vary according to whom the material is directed at. Thus, the state had an interest in preventing such inappropriate material to recognized vulnerable populations, like minors. It further held that it was reasonable for the state to consider such material obscene, even if it is not so for adults.