I’m in Chicago this week, speaking again at the semi-annual meeting of the First Amendment Lawyers Association.
I love going to their meetings. They’re an inspirational, funny bunch of men and women. When the ACLU takes a case, or an individual or group fights for its most basic rights, it’s a First Amendment Lawyer who typically challenges the government.
Various attorneys outlined their current work:
* The continuing fallout from the Janet Jackson Superbowl nipplegate;
* An Ohio “decency” group’s attempt to eliminate strip clubs from the state;
* A Kansas county’s effort to zone adult bookstores out of existence;
* The Florida arrest of Max Hardcore for selling porn to adults;
* The upcoming Supreme Court challenge to the law that criminalizes the selling of vibrators in Alabama;
* The FCC’s insistence that certain words are bad for your kids to hear on TV—and its decision to enforce multi-million dollar fines on stations who broadcast one of them;
* The Justice Department’s continued harassment of sexually-oriented internet sites.
Our country is built on a glorious infrastructure of civil liberties. Our Bill of Rights is an extraordinary set of promises outlining the many forms of free expression every American can count on. When the government—federal, state, even local—breaks one of those promises, it’s a First Amendment Lawyer who not-so-gently reminds government of its obligations. It’s hard, dirty, thankless work.
Like everyone, I used to make lawyer jokes, because they were an easy target. But no more. After all, I’ve learned that it’s the 90% of lawyers that give the other 10% a bad name.
I feel proud to live in a country with a Bill of Rights, continually dismayed that the government breaks that contract so often—and grateful that there are First Amendment Lawyers to protect and enforce that precious promise.
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