Adult video store wins temporary reprieve in fight to keep signs

Friday, October 2, 1998

A federal judge in Honolulu issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday preventing city officials from forcing an adult video store to remove three outdoor signs.

Chamblee Visuals, LLC, which does business under the name Inserection, sued the city last week contending its First Amendment rights were violated when city officials revoked its sign permit.

In early September, Jan Naoe Sullivan, director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, sent a letter to Inserection, saying that the store’s permit had been revoked for fear that the signs violated Hawaii’s “pornographic for minors” law.

Sullivan wrote: “Recent community outcry on the sign installation demonstrates that this sign is offensive to the majority of the community since its presentation would appeal to a minor’s prurient interest which would violate the statute regarding pornography for minors.”

Hawaii law defines “pornographic for minors” as material that “is primarily devoted to explicit and detailed narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic sexual abuse.”

Store attorneys said the signs — which contained only the words “Inserection Adult Fantasy Store” — do not even come close to violating this law.

Federal District Judge Susan Oki Mollway agreed, writing: “Inserection’s signs do not contain any visual depictions of persons. Nor do the signs contain an explicit or detailed narrative. All three signs consist only of the wording ‘Inserection Adult Fantasy Store’ displayed in multiple colors against a white background. This does not appear to constitute a sexually oriented, detailed narrative.”

Mollway noted that the “city makes no attempt to show how Inserection’s signs fit the definition of being ‘pornographic for minors.’”

The judge also wrote that “the balance of hardships tips decidedly in favor of Inserection.”

The temporary restraining order is in effect until Oct. 10 unless the court issues another order dissolving or extending relief or the parties resolve the lawsuit.