Maggie Gallagher

The obligatory fig leaf of art, used to cover up the ugliness of our single-minded obsession with adult sexual expression under any and all circumstances, is getting thinner and thinner. But still the Supreme Court trotted out the tired old convention that only the Supremes stand between Great Art and the philistine yahoos intent on chilling speech: "The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea, that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity, that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages. Both themes -- teenage sexual activity and the sexual abuse of children -- have inspired countless literary works. William Shakespeare created the most famous pair of teenage lovers, one of whom is just 13 years of age." According to The New York Times, both "Traffic" and "American Beauty" are movies theoretically threatened by the 1996 Child Pornography Act.

Maybe I am stretching the bounds of legitimate discourse here. But would it be so horrible if contemporary remakers of "Romeo and Juliet" had to find some other means of personal expression besides showing a 13-year-old having sex? As it happens, I liked the 1999 film "American Beauty" very much. The fact that it was made after the 1996 Child Pornography Act is further proof the statute has not chilled legitimate filmmakers' expression.

But what about the future? If I had to choose between saving one child from being abused by a pedophile and limiting the ability of a filmmaker to display graphic sex with children in the service of his or her art, I would have no trouble choosing the protection of children over the protection of artists. Nor did Democrats and Republicans in Congress have any trouble.

What is the Supreme Court's problem?

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.