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Inc. Young v. American Mini Theatres


Young marked the beginning of a new era in Supreme Court rulings on speech, in which the Court began to distinguish certain types of legal speech as offensive and therefore subject to varying degrees of restriction.

In 1972, the city of Detroit, Michigan, passed two amendments to its "Anti-Skid Row Ordinance" dating from a decade earlier. The amendments provided that a theater showing so-called "adult" films could not be located within 1,000 feet of another such establishment or within 500 feet of a residential area. American Mini Theatres, which operated two theaters that exclusively showed sexually explicit but legal films, challenged the 1972 ordinances. After the federal district court upheld the zoning laws, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the ordinances constituted prior restraints on constitutionally protected forms of speech, overturned this decisions. The mayor of Detroit then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review of this decision.

The federal appellate court had based its ruling on a 1975 case, Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, in which the Supreme Court held that all sexually-oriented material not judged to be obscene should receive full First Amendment protection. Because the Detroit ordinances did not require that a determination of obscenity be made before the city banned outlets for questionable material from certain areas, the court was obliged to give establishments like American Mini Theatres the benefit of the doubt.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Inc. Young v. American Mini Theatres - Significance, Supreme Court Holds That Government Can Restrict Certain Types Of Offensive Speech, Related Cases