Wildcat Press Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

February 26, 1996 12:00 am

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Affidavit in ACLU, et al v. Reno

I, Patricia Nell Warren, of Los Angeles, California, do hereby depose and swear:

1. I am a partner of Wildcat Press Entertainment, a limited liability partnership established in 1994 and located in Beverly Hills, California. We are currently in the process of incorporating in the state of California. I operate Wildcat Press, a division of Wildcat Entertainment. I also serve as project advisor and editor of YouthArts, award winning on-line magazines by and about lesbian and gay youth. I submit this affidavit on behalf of Wildcat Press and YouthArts. Wildcat Press publishes classic gay and lesbian literature, as well as the works of young gay and lesbian writers. Since its inception, Wildcat Press has exhibited at the annual American Booksellers Association convention. We maintain several Internet sites; as a small press, we have found our Internet site is a cost-effective way to inform people about our company, to sell books to individuals and to booksellers, and to publish works on-line.

2. Wildcat Press has already experienced success with our first book, a national hardcover bestseller written by me, entitled Harlan’s Race. To spread the word about our growing company, Wildcat Press maintains a company Internet site containing text and graphics. The home page is located at http://www.gaywired.com/unity/wildcat/wildcat.htm and currently contains 13 pages of text. Computers for this site are physically located in Southern California and operated by Matt Skallerud of Southern California Gaywired. At this web site, we offer users the opportunity to order our books on-line as well as offering excerpts from two of my books, The Front Runner and Harlan’s Race. Published in 1974, The Front Runner is my best known book; a recent mainstream anthology published by Crown Books included it in a recent anthology as one of the “greatest sports stories of all time,” alongside writers like Homer and Jules Verne. It tells the story of a loving relationship between Olympic runner Billy Sive and his track coach Harlan Brown in the heady days after Stonewall and before the AIDS crisis. Harlan’s Race returns to Harlan Brown in 1990, as he reflects on the changes in the gay community brought on by AIDS and in his own life following Billy’s murder during the 1976 Olympics.

3. I am concerned that despite the literary acclaim Wildcat Press books have received, much of our Internet site would be considered “patently offensive” or “indecent” under this new statute because the works deal with gay and lesbian sexuality. I have already experienced attempts to censor my books: according to Banned Books, a publication of the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, et al, the religious right has taken censorship action against The Front Runner in localities such as Three Rivers, MI. Banned Books lists The Front Runner in a category entitled, “Some People Consider These Books Dangerous.” Although Wildcat Press maintains consistently high standards, in the current social climate, I believe that much gay or lesbian literature, regardless of the quality of the work, will be considered “indecent” or “patently offensive.” For Wildcat Press to avoid criminal prosecution or sanctions, we would be forced to eliminate all references to lesbian and gay sex on our Internet site, a difficult task since the purpose of Wildcat Press is to publish gay and lesbian works.

4. The Wildcat Press home page, which is an electronic table of contents pointing to materials found on our Internet site, is linked to other sites on the Internet. These links are in turn linked to other sites on the Internet. Even if Wildcat Press were to screen our Internet site for contents that might be considered “patently offensive” or “indecent,” it would be infeasible for us to screen materials contained in this virtually endless chain of links.

5. Wildcat Press also publishes my new on-line syndicated column, “News You Won’t See on TV.” The column consists of editorial-length commentaries focusing mainly on the current controversy over gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in American society. My columns are sent via e-mail from wildcatprs@aol.com, the e-mail address of Wildcat Press, to a growing list of on-line newsgroups and print publications who have e-mail addresses. I also use e-mail to discuss terms of column publications with interested publications. Although only a few months old, individual offerings of “News You Won’t See on TV” has already been widely published in mainstream publications like The Daily Texan and the Des Moines Register, as well as gay publications as far away as Spain. I have a growing readership for my commentary, and people look to me for my characteristic viewpoint on events and attitudes, where it concerns this controversy that resounds across America today about gay issues. Often I discuss the problems of gay youth and I have a growing number of young readers. If the mere mention of gay and lesbian sex is deemed “indecent or “patently offensive” under this statute, I and the publications that receive and publish my columns would be at risk of criminal prosecution or other sanctions.

6. In addition to publishing books, Wildcat Press also publishes two youth electronic magazines (“e-zine”) called YouthArts East and YouthArts West, which are located at http://dolphin.upenn.edu/~lgba and http://spidey.usc.edu/qf/yap, respectively. This month the YouthArts pages were reviewed most favorably by The McKinley Group, an editorial team that has reviewed over 40,000 Web sites. I serve as the project advisor and editor of these e-zines. The hardware for these e-zines operate out of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California. These textual and graphic e-zines are a serious forum for youth creativity and opinion, focusing on poetry, short fiction, essays, fine art, photography, editorials, as well as other creative expressions. We also maintain a link page directing youth to other Internet sites, where we believe they will find information vital to their well-being. Our e-zines receive approximately 2,000 visits every month. The original e-zine, YouthArts East, currently contains approximately 15 pages of text and graphics. The second e-zine, YouthArts West, currently contains approximately 100 pages of text and graphics. Just as with our non-electronic publications, Wildcat Press maintains a high standard with this e-zine and does not publish gratuitous pornography. However, many of the contributors to the e-zine are lesbian and gay youth who openly discuss sex and sexuality, often using slang common to their age group. The youth also discuss problems at home and at school and issues on society as a whole. I am concerned that these expressions of sex and sexuality, despite their artistic merit, might be considered “indecent” or “patently offensive,” thus placing Wildcat Press at risk of criminal prosecution or other sanctions.

7. As the names of the youth e-zines imply, YouthArts is written by teens specifically for other teens. Under the current statute, Wildcat Press could be subject to criminal prosecution or sanctions if we knowingly transmit materials to minors on-line that are considered “patently offensive” or “indecent.” I believe this statute, passed under the guise of “protecting” youth, actually harms the lesbian and gay audience of YouthArts by depriving them of a forum to openly discuss their problems, share their artistic creations, as well as denying them access to vital information. Furthermore, I do not believe that there is anything indecent about the YouthArts e-zines as presently published. There is nothing indecent about the heartfelt expressions of gay youth regarding their lives and their experiences, which extend far beyond sexuality, into questions of self-esteem, self-understanding, family and school problems, political activism and spirituality.

8. I do not understand how to determine whether anything published in our e-zine is “patently offensive” or “indecent.” The e-zine is a creative forum for many youth to discuss their sexuality. We work extensively with the contributors and take pains to ensure that sexual references are not simply gratuitous, but are a vehicle for the young artists’ creativity. In addition, we involve these young artists in every facet of the e-zine’s publication, from working with them on their text or visual arts, to teaching them how to publish their works on the World Wide Web. In order to protect Wildcat Press from criminal prosecution or sanctions, we might be forced to prohibit any of the gay and lesbian youth from making references to their sexuality. Likewise, I do not know if any references made by our occasional straight youth contributors about their sexuality might also be considered “patently offensive” or “indecent.” Wildcat Press believes that prohibiting these young artists from discussing their sexuality not only stifles their creativity, but also lowers the quality of these artists’ contributions.

9. I understand that possible courses of action to reduce the risk of criminal liability would be to attempt to screen out most users under age 18 by a subscription fee paid via credit card, a mandatory registration process, or publishing two Internet sites or e-zines, one for adults and the other for minors. Because I fear that much of the content on the Internet site and e-zines Wildcat Press operates might be considered “indecent” or “patently offensive” because they refer to lesbian and gay sex and sexuality, I believe that these actions would impair the ability of Wildcat Press to communicate via the Internet. Our company Internet site is meant to inform users of the high quality of work that Wildcat Press produces. If users are dissuaded from entering our company Internet site because of fees or the loss of anonymity because of a mandatory registration process, then the efforts of Wildcat Press to reach potential customers is greatly limited. Our youth e-zine is by, for, and about youth. Screening out all youth in order to minimize the risk of criminal prosecution or sanctions would mean no one in our intended audience would have access to the e-zine. In addition, the operation of two sites requires far more personnel and financial resources than Wildcat Press, a small company, can afford. Therefore, despite the law’s passage, in order to maintain our artistic and financial integrity, Wildcat Press currently does not intend to self-censor its Internet sites.

10. I believe the law’s prohibition against materials that might be considered “patently offensive” or “indecent” would be devastating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Coming out as a gay youth is often terrifying and feelings of isolation and confusion are commonplace. For these youth, many of whom have not revealed their sexual orientations to their friends and family or who live in areas where there are no spaces for gay youth to meet, our e-zine is one of many forums found on the Internet that are invaluable in allaying their concerns about being gay. In publications like our e-zine, on-line chat rooms, newsgroups, and other on-line resources, gay youth may safely and anonymously find friendship, emotional support, and affirmation that may not exist in their physical communities. The gay and lesbian youth who read our e-zines are not damaged from the materials we publish, but instead find a creative outlet for the frustrations, fears, and anxieties they may experience as gay youth in today’s society.

11. In addition to my work as a writer and publisher of lesbian and gay literature, I am also an activist in the lesbian and gay community who uses the Internet for lobbying and exchanging vital information among activist groups. For example, I am a member of the Gay and Lesbian Education Commission of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Commission advises the Los Angeles Board of Education on the welfare of gay youth in the district. The district is presently going on-line in order to facilitate district business, communication, and education. As a Commissioner and an activist, I would very much like to continue using these Internet resources. I understand that this law could eliminate or drastically reduce the materials available on valuable gay and lesbian resources found on the Internet. Likewise, as a user I may be subject to criminal prosecution or sanctions by discussing some lesbian and gay issues on-line. I do not want to have to censor my own submissions to various on-line forums or educational institutions in order to avoid criminal prosecution or sanctions.

I swear that the foregoing statements are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Patricia Nell Warren

Subscribed and sworn before me on this Day of February, 1996.

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