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SJC orders referendum

SJC orders referendum

By Harold A. Stern

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered the Cambridge City Council to place an anti-pornography referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The measure would amend the Cambridge Human Rights Ordinance and would allow lawsuits against the producers and distributors of pornographic materials for damages arising from civil rights violations.

A majority of the ballots cast on Nov. 5 must support the referendum, and the number of votes in favor must also total at least one-third of the number of registered voters in Cambridge.

Suzanne Melendy of the Women's Alliance Against Pornography (WAAP) sued the City Council after it refused to put the amendments on the ballot.

WAAP had collected nearly 2000 more signatures than the approximately 4000 necessary to require the council to present the referendum to the voters, WAAP member Barbara Findlen said.

The council voted against placing the measure on the ballot because members doubted its constitutionality. A US appellate court ruled that similar legislation enacted in Indianapolis was unconstitutional. Supporters of the Cambridge measure hope that a case arising from it will reach the US Supreme Court and be found constitutional.

The Indianapolis case was a suit against the law itself, not against an alleged violator. Findlen said a Cambridge case would turn on actual events, not a philosophical discussion of rights, making it more likely that the law would be upheld.