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Gay History - January 13, 1958: Landmark Case One, Inc. v. Olesen, Supreme Court rules in favor of magazine “One: The Homosexual Magazine.”

Gay History – January 13, 1958: Landmark Case One, Inc. v. Olesen, Supreme Court rules in favor of magazine “One: The Homosexual Magazine.”

January 13, 1958: In the landmark case One, Inc. v. Olesen, the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment rights of the gay community magazine “One: The Homosexual Magazine.”

In the original case  One, Inc. v. Olesen, 241 F.2d 772 (9th Cir. 1957), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a magazine published for a homosexual audience was obscene and was therefore not constitutionally protected under the First Amendment . The case arose when the postmaster of the city of Los Angeles, Otto K. Olesen, ordered federal postal authorities to seize One informing the publisher that he considered it “obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy” and “non-mailable” under federal law

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit emphasized that it would base its ruling on the effect of the words on the reader, insisting that it was not “its brothers’ keeper as to the type of reading to be indulged in.” However, in announcing the opinion for the circuit court, Judge John Rolly Ross noted that although the magazine stated its aim was to provide educational and informative material, it “has a primary purpose of exciting lust, lewd and lascivious thoughts and sensual desires in the minds of the persons reading it.”

The judge described one of the articles, as “cheap pornography.” and added that he believed homosexuality could only be discussed from a “scientific, historical and critical point of view.”  found the magazine as a whole “obscene and filthy” and upheld the lower court’s ruling that the postmaster was justified.

On January 13, 1958, the Supreme Court accepted the case and, without hearing oral argument, issued a terse per curiam decision reversing the Ninth Circuit. The decision, citing its June 24, 1957, landmark decision in Roth v. United States 354 U.S. 476 (1957), read in its entirety:

On the same day, the court issued a similar per curiam decision also citing Roth in Sunshine Book Co. v. Summerfield, which concerned the distribution of two nudist magazines.

One, Inc. v. Olesen was the first U.S. Supreme Court ruling to deal with homosexuality and the first to address free speech rights with respect to homosexuality.