Senator Patrick Leahy has a message for the Supreme Court and freshmen on Capitol Hill: The Communications Decency Act censors free speech.
The Vermont Democrat started off his season with the 105th Congress by introducing legislation Tuesday to revoke the law, which he called "unnecessary, unworkable, and--most significantly--unconstitutional."
"So far, every court to consider this law has agreed with us that the Communications Decency Act flunks the constitutionality test," he said.
The CDA came into being as Section 507 of the federal government's sweeping telecommunications reform legislation enacted last year. The act made it illegal to knowingly transmit "indecent" material using forums accessible to minors such as the Internet. Violators risked a sentence of up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court will test the law in a landmark hearing March 19, Leahy is still leading his fight in Congress.
"We will be ready to pass this bill and repeal the Internet censorship law as soon as the Supreme Court acts--as I am confident they will--to strike down the law as unconstitutional," he said on the Senate floor. "I exhort the Supreme Court to make clear that we do not forfeit our First Amendment rights when we go online."
He also warned that Congress shall make no law against the Net until its members have at least used it.
"I fear that many members who have never used a computer, let alone surfed the Internet, may have been under the misapprehension that the Internet is full of sexually explicit material."