ONE, Inc. was an early gay rights organisation in the USA.
The idea for a publication dedicated to homosexuals emerged from a Mattachine Society discussion meeting held on October 15, 1952. ONE Magazine’s first editors included founders of Mattachine Societyand also The Knights of the Clock, a support group for interracial gay couples that had begun in Los Angeles in 1950.
ONE Inc.’s Articles of Incorporation were signed on Nov. 15, 1952 and were signed by “Tony Sanchez” (a pseudonym), Martin Block, and Dale Jennings. Other founders were Merton Bird, W. Dorr Legg, Don Slater, and Chuck Rowland. Jennings and Rowland were also Mattachine Society founders.
In January 1953 ONE, Inc. began publishing ONE Magazine, the first U.S. pro-gay publication, and sold it openly on the streets of Los Angeles. In October 1954 the U.S. Postal Service declared the magazine ‘obscene’. ONE sued, and finally won in 1958, as part of the landmark First Amendment case, Roth v. United States. The magazine continued until 1967.
ONE also published ONE Institute Quarterly (now the Journal of Homosexuality). It began to run symposia, and contributed greatly to scholarship on the subject of same-sex love (then called ‘homophile studies’).
ONE readily admitted women, and Joan Corbin (as Eve Elloree), Irma Wolf (as Ann Carrl Reid), Stella Rush (as Sten Russell), Helen Sandoz (as Helen Sanders), and Betty Perdue (as Geraldine Jackson) were vital to its early success. ONE and Mattachine in turn provided vital help to the Daughters of Bilitis in the launching of their newsletter The Ladder (Magazine) in 1956. The Daughters of Bilitis was the counterpart lesbian organisation to the Mattachine Society, and the organisations worked together on some campaigns and ran lecture-series. Bilitis came under attack in the early 1970s for ‘siding’ with Mattachine and ONE, rather than with the new separatist feminists.
In 1965, ONE separated over irreconcilable differences between ONE’s business manager Dorr Legg and ONE Magazine editor Don Slater. After a two-year court battle, Dorr Legg’s faction retained the name “ONE, Inc.” and Don Slater’s faction retained most of the corporate library and archives. In 1968, Slater’s faction became the Homosexual Information Center or HIC, a non-profit corporation that survives today.
In 1996, ONE, Inc. merged with ISHR, the Institute for the Study of Human Resources, a non-profit organization created by transgendered philanthropist Reed Erickson, with ISHR being the surviving organization and ONE being the merging corporation. In 2005, the HIC donated many of its historic materials, including most of ONE Incorporated’s Blanche M. Baker Memorial Library, to the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection on Sex and Gender, a special collection within Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge.
A Timeline History of ONE, Incorporated 1947–1967
This timeline links to several primary documents, such as court records, corporate minutes, letters of resignation, and correspondence between several of the pioneers of the early movement for homosexual rights in the United States. It ends in 1967 after the division of ONE, Inc. was finalized after a grueling two-year court battle.
White’s book Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History for the Movement for Homosexual Rights, published by the University of Illinois Press in May of 2009, discusses many of the documents linked to this page.
- June: Edythe Eyde publishes Vice Versa: America’s Gayest Magazine, the first regularly published newsletter in the United States dedicated to homosexual issues. The newsletter was typewritten at her employer’s, RKO Studios in Los Angeles. Eyde distributed 16 copies to friends such as Jim Kepner between June 1947 and February 1948. Eyde later became know to readers of The Ladder through her pen-name, “Lisa Ben,” an anagram for Lesbian.
Note: The HIC secured official right to use Eyde’s true name in print, in the summer of 2015.
- Alfred Kinsey et al.’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is published, asserting that one in three American males had experienced some form of homosexual encounter in their lifetime and that between four and eight percent were exclusively homosexual.
- February: final (ninth) issue of Vice Versa distributed.
- August: Harry Hay attends a beer bust near the University of Southern California campus, where the idea is sprung to start a political organization called “Bachelors for Wallace.” Upon returning home that night, Hay began his first draft of a prospectus to form an organization dedicated to the welfare of homosexuals.
- Publication of Nial Kent’s The Divided Path.
- Physique Pictorial magazine is first published, by Bob Mizer.
- (Future activist) Betty Berzon moves to Los Angeles.
- James Barr’s Quatrefoil published by Greenberg.
- President Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, citing “sexual perversions” as reasons for preventing homosexuals from being employed by the federal government.
- Nov 11: Harry Hay, Rudy Gernreich, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, and Bob Hull meet at Hay’s home in Silver Lake to discuss his Preliminary Concepts for unifying homosexuals into social action. The group meet again two days later, on Nov. 13th.
- Dec: A Senate subcommittee issues a report stating that homosexuals working within the Federal government could be considered a threat to national security.
- Dec. 11: First organized discussion group of Hay’s secret society, which would later become known as Mattachine.
- Jim Kepner moves to 2141 Baxter Street in Echo Park, where he is to reside for the next 21 years.
- Donald Webster Cory’s The Homosexual in America—A Subjective Approach is published by Greenberg.
- Fritz Peters’s novel Finistère is published by Farrar, Straus & Company.
- April: Lovers Konrad Stevens and James Gruber (christened collectively as “Stim” by Dale Jennings) join Harry Hay’s “Society of Fools.” The organization decides to call itself “Mattachine.” First Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are written.
- June: Dorr Legg (known as Bill Lambert), Merton Bird, and others found Knights of the Clocks, an organization of interracial homosexuals.
- July 20: Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are ratified.
- UCLA psychologist Evelyn Hooker contacts Mattachine in search of subjects for her study of differences between male homosexuals and heterosexuals.
- January: Premier Issue of ONE Magazine, edited by Martin Block, Dale Jennings, and Don Slater, with William Lambert as Business Manager and Donald Webster Cory as Contributing Editor.
- Jim Kepner attends his first Mattachine meeting by invitation of his friend Betty Perdue.
- February 7 [Sa]: ONE, Incorporated’s Articles of Incorporation filed with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, CA, signed by Martin Block, Dale Jennings, and Tony Reyes, the First Directors of ONE, Inc. Also on this day: a Business Meeting
- March 21 [Sa]: Business Meeting
- April 11–12 [Sa–Su]: Mattachine Conference to create a new constitution.
- Spring: Irma “Corky” Wolf, known in print as “Ann Carl Reid,” begins working for ONE, Inc.
- May 27 [We]: ONE, Incorporated’s Charter Granted by the State of California.
- June: Martin Block resigns as editor of ONE magazine; Dale Jennings takes over.
- June 7 [Su]: Business Meeting
- August: An issue of ONE magazine dealing with homosexual marriage is confiscated by the Los Angeles Postmaster.
Attorney Eric Julber later secures the magazine’s release.
- Sept: ONE is first distributed in New York City.
- October 16 [Fr]: By-Laws for ONE, Incorporated are filed with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, California.
- Nov. 1 [Su]: First Official Board Meeting for ONE, Incorporated. Martin Block is elected Chair, Tony Reyes Vice Chair, and Dale Jennings becomes the Secretary-Treasurer.
- The cover of the November issue of ONE reads “The Homosexual Magazine” for the first time.
- Nov. 14 [Sa]: Dale Jennings addresses the Mattachine Society Banquet for having received the 1953 Achievement Award, for his work on ONE magazine
- By year’s end, Mattachine-like discussion groups are being held throughout Los Angeles and in Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Chicago.
- January 22 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting.
The Board of Directors of ONE, Incorporated elect William Lambert as Chairman, Irma Wolf as vice-Chairman, and Dale Jennings as Secretary-Treasurer, each to serve a three-year term.
- Feb.: Dale Jennings resigns as editor of ONE. Irma Wolf is recruited to the editorial board.
- March 31 [We]: Don Slater becomes interim director of ONE, Inc.
Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” publishes his first article in ONE, “The Importance of Being Different.”
- May: Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” becomes a member of the Editorial Staff for ONE,replacing Ben Tabor.
- July: Irma “Corky” Wolf, as “Ann Carll Reid,” becomes Managing Editor of ONE magazine.
- October: Los Angeles Postmaster Otto K. Oleson refuses to deliver the October issue of ONE, calling the content “obscene.” Attorney Eric Julber agrees to help ONE engage Oleson in a lawsuit.
- January: ONE’s Education Division, called ONE Institute for Homophile Studies, sponsors its first public meeting, a Midwinter Institute.
- Feb. 27 [Su]: Date of Jim Kepner’s (first) Letter of Resignation from ONE, Incorporated.
- ONE Inc. begins its ONE Institute of Homophile Studies program, lead by Jim Kepner, Merritt Thompson, and W. Dorr Legg. This is the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study of homosexuality.
- ONE Confidential launched and distributed to the Friends of ONE in response to the onslaught of mail and increased public attention.
- ONE, Incorporated’s Publications Division publishes Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations & Publications, with William Lambert [Marvin Cutler], as Editor.
- Jim Kepner contributes over 400 books to ONE Incorporated’s library, more than doubling the size of the collection. Don Slater becomes ONE’s first librarian.
- Jan. 27–29: Second annual Midwinter Institute. Harry Hay is a featured speaker.
- March 1 [Th]: Chuck Rowland resigns from ONE’s Social Services Division.
- Irma “Corky” Wolf, as “Ann Carll Reid,” is promoted to Editor of ONE Magazine.
- U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke rules that the October 1954 issue of ONE Magazine had contained “filthy and obscene material obviously calculated to stimulate the lust of the homosexual reader” and was thus unmailable. ONE’s attorney Eric Julber appeals.
- The Wolfenden Report is published, recommending that homosexuality be decriminalized in England.
- Harry Benjamin coins the word “transsexual.”
- A Navy committee investigating homosexuals in the military publishes The Crittenden Report, stating that there was no legitimate basis for excluding homosexuals from the armed forces.
- Federal government astronomer Frank Kameny is fired for being a homosexual.
- UCLA Psychologist Evelyn Hooker publishes a study proclaiming that homosexual men are just as well adjusted as heterosexual men.
- Jan. 25–27: Third annual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual Answers His Critics.”
Harry Hay presents a paper titled “The Homophile in Search of an Historical Context and Cultural Continuity.”
- Dale Jennings, as Jeff Winters, again appears in ONE magazine, as author of the short story “The Little Guy.”
- March: California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Barnes, Hamley, and Ross uphold Judge Clarke’s ruling from a year prior that the October 1954 issue of ONE was obscene and thus not mailable. Julber decides to appeal.
- June 13 [Th]: Eric Julber files a nine-page petition with the U.S. Supreme Court (with appendix) on behalf of ONE, Incorporated.
- June 24 [Mon]: Supreme Court rules in Roth vs. United States that “obscenity” is not protected by the First Amendment and that “The standard for judging obscenity…is whether, to the average person…the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests.”
- Summer: “The Homosexual Viewpoint” first printed on the cover of ONE magazine.
- Oct. 17 [Th]: Irma “Corky” Wolf resigns as Editor of ONE due to health issues and continued conflicts with W. Dorr Legg [William Lambert].
Barbara Gittings founds a Daughters of Bilitis chapter in New York.
- Jan. 13 [Mo]: The United States Supreme Court rules that the October 1954 issue of ONE Magazine was not obscene and should be protected as an exercise of free speech. The court battle between ONE Inc. and Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Oleson is over.
- Jan. 31 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting. Don Slater elected a Director to fill the unexpired two-year term of Ann Carll Reid.
- Jan. 31–Feb. 2: 4th annual Midwinter Institute. Theme: Homosexuality: A Way of Life.
- June 6 [Fr]: ONE Institute Quarterly for Homophile Studies first published, by W. Dorr Legg, Merritt M. Thompson, and Jim Kepner.
- Jan. 29–31: 5th annual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: Mental Health and Homosexuality.
- Sept. 4–7: 6th annual Mattachine Convention in Denver. Theme: New Frontiers in Acceptance of the Homophile. Jim Kepner is a featured speaker. Billy Glover attends and decides to work for the movement.
- Late December: Jim Schneider contacts Don Slater at ONE’s offices in downtown Los Angeles and becomes an active volunteer for the organization.
- Jan. 29–31: ONE’s 6th annual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual in the Community.”
- Feb. 2: [Mon]: Board of Directors Meeting.
Jim Kepner is elected Chairman, Don Slater Vice Chairman, and William LambertSecretary-Treasurer.
- Nov. 1 [Tue]: Jim Kepner’s letter explaining his resignation to the Members of ONE, Inc.
- Nov. 15 [Sat]: Date of Jim Kepner’s second letter of resignation from ONE, Incorporated, and from the editorial board of ONE magazine. Ross Ingersoll takes his place.
- Wayne Placek introduces Joseph Hansen to Don Slater, to see if Slater would publish one of Hansen’s poems or short stories.
- San Francisco drag artist José Sarria becomes the first openly gay person to run for political office in the nation.
- Jan. 28–29: 7th Annual Midwinter Institute and “Bill of Rights” fiasco.
- Jan. 27 [Fr]: Fred Frisbie (known as “George Mortenson”) becomes a director of ONE, Incorporated, replacing Jim Kepner, who had resigned the prior November.
- Jan. 28 [Sa]: Frank Kameny writes to ONE, Inc. advising them of the Writ of Certiorari he had filed with the Supreme Court the day before.
- July 12 [We]: Stella Rush, known as “Sten Russell,” resigns from ONE magazine’s editorial board in a phone conversation with Don Slater.
- July 23 [Su]: Date of Stella Rush’s Letter of Resignation from ONE’s board and as Associate Editor of ONE magazine.
- Dec. 11: Psychologist and long-time friend of ONE Blanche M. Baker dies.
- Joseph Hansen joins ONE’s Editorial Board.
- Jan. 26 [Fr]: 10th Annual Business Meeting for ONE, Incorporated. Fred Frisbie (known as “George Mortenson”) becomes ONE’s Chairman. Don Slater is elected Vice-chair and W. Dorr Legg becomes Secretary/Treasurer. Actor Morgan Farley is elected to membership.
- Jan. 26–28: 8th Annual Midwinter Institute. Harry Hay is an honored speaker.
- March: Joseph Hansen makes his debut in ONE.
- May 1: ONE, Inc., moves to Venice Blvd. after being evicted from its Hill Street office due to earthquake retrofitting.
Actor Morgan Farley helps to secure the new office for ONE Inc.
- May 1: Mattachine founder Bob Hull commits suicide.
- Sep. 7: Fall semester begins at ONE Institute for Homophile Studies, with courses taught by Don Slater, Morgan Farley, and W. Dorr Legg.
- Dec. 2: Morgan Farley resigns from corporate membership.
- John Rechy’s novel City of Night published by Grove Press.
- The Society for Individual Rights [SIR] founded in San Francisco to help organize the gay community.
- In Britain, a group of Quakers publish a pamphlet titled Toward a Quaker View of Sex that argued that society “should no more deplore homosexuality than lefthandedness.”
- Jan. 25–27 [Fr–Su]: 9th Annual Midwinter Institute
- Jan. 25 [Fr]: ONE Inc.’s Annual Meeting. Monwell Boyfrank becomes a director.
- Feb. 1 [Fr]: ONE’s election of officers. Joseph Aaron is elected Chairman. W. Dorr Legg is elected Vice-chairman, and Monwell Boyfrank becomes Secretary/Treasurer.
- Feb. 11 [Mo]: Spring semester begins at ONE Institute for Homophile Studies.
- May: Harry Hay moves in with Jim Kepner in Echo Park. (They had started dating earlier in the year.
- May 31 [Fri]: Joseph Arron resigns as Chair of ONE Incorporated’s Promotions Committee. Jim Schneider is installed in his place.
- July 28 [Sun]: Joan Corbin, known as “Eve Elloree,” is dropped from corporate membership due to poor attendance.
- Sept: Harry Hay meets John Burnside and the two begin living together two months later. Hay and Burnside remain lovers until Hay’s death on Oct. 24, 2002.
- Nov. 12 [Tue]: Corporate meeting. ONE, Inc. becomes divided over who should be elected into membership at the next annual meeting in January. Slater, Reyes, and Steinert favor electing Billy Glover to corporate membership; Lambert, Aaron, and Boyfrank reject Glover in favor of others. It is decided to submit the names of Harry Hay, John Burnside, and Billy Glover as candidates.
- Nov. 22 [Fri]: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas. Billy Glover meets Melvin Cain later that afternoon, and they become lovers and friends.
- Joseph Hansen, as “James Colton,” publishes his first novel, Lost on Twilight Road.
- Jan. 15: Monwell Boyfrank submits a formal letter of resignation, due to health reasons, at a board meeting chaired by Bill Lambert. Jim Schneider elected to Board of Directors of ONE, Inc.
- Jan. 25 and 26: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting, chaired by Joe Weaver (a.k.a. Joseph Aaron). Manuel Boyfrank was Secretary. Other members present: Antonio Reyes, Rudolf Steinert (“Stuart”), Bill Lambert, and Don Slater. Harry Hay and John Burnside are elected to serve as Directors then resign shortly after due to a conflict over whether or not to elect Billy Glover as a director.
- Don Slater’s account of the 1964, 1965 Elections at ONE, Incorporated.
- June 26: ONE, Inc., is featured in a Life magazine article titled “Homosexuality in America.”
- June 28: Erickson Educational Foundation founded by Reed Erickson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- July 4: Louisiana millionaire Reed Erickson contacts ONE Inc. to offer financial assistance to the organization.
- August 15th: Monwell Boyfrank’s letter to Don Slater stating that no compromise was possible and that ONE Inc. was in deadlock.
- The Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR) founded by Don Slater, Antonio Sanchez, and W. Dorr Legg.
- Rudi Steinert’s letter to Chairman Joe Aaron requesting a Corporate Meeting, dated Sept. 9, 1964 (signed “R. H. Stuart”).
- Sept. 21: ISHR granted exemption from franchise tax by the State of California Franchise Tax Board, as a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to scientific research and education.
- Joseph Hansen, as James Colton, publishes his second novel, Strange Marriage.
- Jan. 29th and 30th: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting. Meeting adjourned on the 29thwith no business conducted and resumed on Sat., without quorum Second meeting adjourned with no time or place set for a follow up meeting.
- Feb. 5: Dorr Legg convenes a meeting as a continuation of the adjourned Corporate Meeting despite Slater’s protest that it was instead a “special meeting,” citing Roberts Rules of Order and the California Civil Code. Slater again protested the 1964 “election” of Winn and Bonham. Legg announced that Rudi Steinert, who was away conducting ONE’s business in Europe, would not be allowed to vote by proxy even though substantial changes in the bylaws were being prepared. Legg further announced that they were going to elect additional members and that Slater would be dismissed as a member of the corporation. Slater withdraws in protest.
- March 2 [Tu]: Corporate meeting. Tony Reyes attends to address new members, but the chair, W. Dorr Legg, does not allow him the floor.
- March 7 [Su]: Attorney Stuart Simke presents a lecture on “The California Sex Laws: Prospects for Reform” as part of the 1964–1965 ONE Institute Series.
- April 12 [Mo]: W. Dorr Legg storms into an editors’ meeting and forces the resignation of the editors of ONE Magazine, telling them they had no right to discuss or attempt to influence corporate policy.
- April 14 [We]: Ross Ingersoll, known as “Marcel Martin,” resigns as Associate Editor of ONE magazine. Ingersoll had served as an editor since the resignation of Jim Kepner in November of 1960.
- April 15 [Th]: Don Slater signs a lease for office space on Cahuenga Blvd. in Universal City.
- April 18 [Su]: Don Slater, Tony Reyes, and Billy Glover move ONE’s library and office from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd. “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” They soon begin calling themselves The Tangent Group, after a regular news column in ONE magazine usually written by Jim Kepner, and maintain that they are indeed “the majority of legally elected board members of ONE.” Kepner and others dub the event “The Heist,” but Slater describes the event as more of a mutiny.
- April 20 [Tu]: Jim Schneider’s letter to Don Slater expressing concern over the recent split of ONE, Incorporated.
- April 21 [Wed]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to ONE Inc. members calling for an informal meeting in his home and demanding the resignation or reconciliation of W. Dorr Legg and Don Slater.
- April 23 [Fr]: Joe Aaron resigns from ONE, Inc. due to “the present corporate dilemma.”
- April 23 (or 25): Legg’s faction votes in a special meeting to remove Don Slater from membership in ONE, Inc.
- May 11 [Tu]: Don Slater sends a Letter to “Former Friends and Subscribers” of ONE Magazine, announcing ONE Inc.’s move from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd., in Hollywood and asking for help and “moral support.”
- May 12 [We]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to Don Slater.
- May 16 [Su]: Rudi Steinert and Tony Reyes are removed from membership in ONE, Inc. by W. Dorr Legg’s faction.
- May 18 [Tu]: Monwell Boyfrank’s letter to Jim Schneider advising him that ONE’s board of directors had removed him from membership in the corporation.
- June 5 [Sa]: The Institute for the Study of Human Resources [ISHR] is incorporated and granted tax exempt status under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
- Don Slater voted off the board of ISHR based on allegations made by W. Dorr Legg.
- July 27 [Tu]: First public meeting of Mattachine Midwest
- Sept. 16th [Th]: Don Slater’s deposition taken in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
- Jan. 26 [We]: W. Dorr Legg answers Don Slater’s interrogatories in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
- Feb. 19–20: Don Slater attends the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations held in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was decided to launch a national campaign to protest the exclusion of homosexuals by the U.S. Military. Forty leaders attend from fourteen different homophile organizations.
The organizations unite to form NACHO, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations.
- March 18 [Fr]: Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals from the Armed Forces issues a statement and a press release.
- May 21 [Sa]: Los Angeles Motorcade in protest of the exclusion of homosexuals from the U. S. Armed Forces.
- Nov. 3 [Th]: Odorizzi v. Bloomfield School District resolved. (This case was sponsored by the HIC.)
- Jan. 1 [Su]: Los Angeles Police raid the Black Cat Bar within minutes after midnight New Year’s eve.
Six male patrons are charged with kissing, and sixteen people are arrested. Several bar-goers are injured, leading to future protests and a legal case.
- Feb. 11 [Sa]: Rally outside of the Black Cat Bar in Los Angeles. (Jim Kepner helped to organize.)
- April 25 [Tu]: Agreement of Settlement between the parties to the action of ONE, Incorporated vs. Slater, et al.
- April 27 [Th]: Dismissal entered for case number 864 824 without prejudice, as to all defendants and cross-defendants, and as to all causes of action in the complaint and in the cross-complaint. The court battle between ONE, Incorporated and Don Slater, et al., is officially over, the organization permanently divided.
ROTH V. UNITED STATES
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, 77 S. Ct. 1304, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1498 (1957), issued a landmark ruling on obscenity and its relation to the first amendment. The Court held that obscenity was not a protected form of expression and could be restricted by the states. In addition, the Court announced a test for courts to use in evaluating whether material was obscene.
The Court consolidated the appeals of Samuel Roth and David Alberts. Roth had been convicted of violating a federal statute (18 U.S.C.A. § 1461) that made it a crime to mail obscene advertising and reading materials
Justice william j. brennan jr., in his majority opinion, reviewed the history of freedom of expression and concluded that not every type of utterance was protected in the thirteen original colonies. libel, blasphemy, and profanity were among the statutory crimes. In addition, that every state and the federal government had obscenity statutes showed that the First Amendment “was not intended to protect every utterance.” Obscenity is denied protection because it is “utterly without redeeming social importance.”
Having ruled that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press, Brennan noted that sex in art and literature was not, by itself, obscene
Indeed, “sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life” had interested “mankind through the ages; it is one of the vital problems of human interest and public concern.” In the past, however, mere sexual content was enough to have a novel banned under the test courts used in assessing whether something was obscene.
For a legal definition of obscenity, U.S. courts looked to the English case of Regina v. Hicklin, L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 (1868). The Hicklin test was “whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” This test permitted prosecutors and judges to select objectionable words or passages without regard for the work as a whole and without respect to any artistic, literary, or scientific value the work might have.
Brennan rejected the Hicklin test as being “unconstitutionally restrictive of the freedoms of speech and press.” It was essential that the work as a whole be evaluated before being declared obscene
Brennan endorsed the test used in both Roth’s and Alberts’s trials: “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient [lewd or lustful] interest.” The new test was applicable to both state and federal government obscenity prosecutions.
The Roth test did not settle the question of what is obscenity, however. In fact, the Court was drawn into a long-term inquiry over virtually every element of the new obscenity test. The Court has never reached full agreement on what constitutes an appeal to “prurient interest.” The phrase “redeeming social importance” has also failed to generate a consensus. Nor, in the years immediately following Roth, could the Court agree on whether “community” referred to the nation as a whole or to individual states or localities
- One, Inc, LGBT Project Wiki, https://lgbt.wikia.org/wiki/ONE,_Inc.
- A Timeline History of ONE, Incorporated 1947-1967, Tangent Group, by C. Todd White, Ph.D. https://www.tangentgroup.org/one-inc-timeline/
- Roth V. United States, Encyclopedia.com https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/law/court-cases/roth-v-united-states