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Let's talk about sex and the First Amendment

Sex and First Amendment
(From left to right) Michael Gerhardt, Mary-Rose Papandrea, Claudia Haupt, Clay Calvert and Kyla Garrett Wagner take part in the first panel discussion of the Sex and the First Amendment symposium on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. This panel focused on sex through the lens of the First Amendment's protection of freedom of expression.

The First Amendment Law Review, a student-edited legal journal at UNC, held its annual symposium on “Sex and the First Amendment” on Friday.

Scholars from across the country attended the symposium to participate in panels focusing on the intersection of sex with the freedom of expression, religion and the internet.

Following the first panel, "Sex and the Freedom of Expression,"  Mary Anne Case took the lead in the second panel of the day, titled “Sex and Religion.” Case, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, discussed Justice Antonin Scalia’s use of language in specific court cases.

She discussed Romer v. Evans, a case dealing with Amendment Two and discrimination based on sexual orientation in Colorado. Case compared the language Scalia used with the language that Nazis used about those of the Jewish faith.

“The more you think about the relationship between what it is to be gay in Amendment Two's Colorado and Jewish in Nazi Germany, the more the parallels come out,” Case said.

The third panel of the symposium addressed the intersection of sex and the internet. Professor Mary Anne Franks of the University of Miami School of Law addressed free speech culture in her discussion.

“I want to talk about what I call sometimes the ‘First Amendment orthodoxy’ or the clichés about the freedom of speech that we often have, especially in popular understanding of free speech,” Franks said.

Franks continued with discussion on the impact of conversation about sex in cases of unauthorized distribution of sexually explicit imagery. She acknowledged that the objection to the circulation of these images revolves around free speech.

“As opposed to this vision of robust and uninhibited conversation about sex, what we often find is incredibly typical, outdated patriarchal assumptions about sex, and that tends to be most of what we talk about and emphasize,” Franks said. “The ability to share naked pictures of people without their consent has been presented as a free speech issue and that any attempts to try to regulate that conduct would be violations of freedom of speech.”

Eric Goldman, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, and Jeff Kosseff, an assistant professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy, continued the panel with their discussions on internet law and cyber security.

The process of organizing this symposium began last year. Kayla Rowsey, the symposium editor of the First Amendment Law Review, headed planning for the symposium.

“It’s just really a lot of emailing back and forth to panelists and coordinating and doing the logistical stuff like setting up the Carolina Club, making sure there’s people to pick them up at the airport and things like that,” Rowsey said. “And then we also publish some of their scholarly articles, which will come out this March I believe.”

After spending eight months working on the event, Rowsey felt satisfied with the outcomes of the symposium’s panel discussions.

“I think the last panel highlighted that perfectly,” Rowsey said. “I hope that even though there are differences in opinion and what the role of sex and the conversation about sex should be, that we can all come together and work towards creative solutions in some of the problems that they talked about today.”


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