Give Them Penthouse

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NEW YORK: There are many threats to a soldier's existence. Guns, bombs, land mines; they're all hazards which are very real. But according to the government, there's another menace which is often overlooked: Girlie mags. In an attempt to eliminate this scourge, the government last May passed a measure called the Military Honor and Decency Act of 1996. But a federal judge, ruling the measure violates rights under the First Amendment, today wiped the act from the books, effectively permitting smut to remain on the stands in military stores. As Judge Shira A. Scheindlin put it: "Society is better served by protecting our cherished right to free speech, even at the cost of tolerating speech that is outrageous, offensive and demeaning." Passed as an addition to the 1996 defense budget bill, lawmakers said the act would help promote core values such as honor, courage and commitment in the military. But Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, saw the matter differently. Saying, "the fact that others might find the magazines offensive is not a rationale for barring them," he filed a lawsuit last year to overturn the act. And today, he was victorious. But while the ruling allows Guccione to peddle his goods to lonely military personnel, the implications go much further since it will make it more difficult for similar anti-porn restrictions to apply to the Internet, cable television and other media.