Senate OKs ban on adult magazines in military stores Penthouse publisher, ACLU consider lawsuits

September 11, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Western Maryland Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett appears to have won his war to ban adult magazines from U.S. military stores.

The Senate gave final congressional approval yesterday to Bartlett's amendment to prohibit sales of such magazines as Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler at American bases worldwide. The measure was part of a much larger defense authorization bill that President Clinton has said he will sign into law.

"This is a great victory for women," said Bartlett, a conservative Republican from Frederick, who has argued that the sale of such magazines at military bases demeans women and could compromise "defense readiness."

No sooner had the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 73 to 26, though, than Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione vowed a lawsuit to overturn it on First Amendment grounds.

"They are not going to get away with it," Guccione said from his office in New York. "It's a violation of my civil rights as a publisher and my First Amendment rights."

The American Civil Liberties Union called the ban "unconstitutional" yesterday and said it also was considering legal action.

Army and Air Force stores sell more than $12 million worth of adult magazines each year on bases, according to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Penthouse is the top seller, with about 19,000 copies monthly.

Bartlett said he proposed the ban, in part, because of complaints from military families that shop at base stores.

Steve Crawford, Bartlett's Democratic opponent this fall for the state's 6th Congressional District seat, has said that banning the sale of adult magazines is wrongheaded. "This is evidence of a man who has never served in the military, who is fundamentally out of touch," Crawford said in a recent interview.

Crawford is a Vietnam veteran. Bartlett said he received a military deferment during World War II to remain in college.

Bartlett scoffed at the notion that magazine publishers would be able to get the ban overturned on free speech grounds, pointing out that military personnel can buy the magazines at convenience stores or through the mail.

"The military has no obligation to sell it to them," he said. "If the military were obligated to sell all the materials permitted by the First Amendment, the stores wouldn't be big enough to hold them."

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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