Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Barbara Nitke

I’ve long been an admirer of the photography of Barbara Nitke, both for its artistry and for its message of emphasizing the humanity of people in alternative sex communities. I was also struck by her bravery in defending free speech in challenging the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Decency Act of nineteen ninety-six, which regulates indecency and obscenity online. This was a fight closely watched by those in the arts and by those of us who publish online.

Barbara is an inspiration to those who care about freedom of expression, no matter the artist’s chosen media. She is kind enough to offer her support to my current battle.

To whom it may concern,

I am a professional photographer on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York. My work has been the subject of one-woman exhibitions in New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, Provincetown and Philadelphia. My subjects include fashion, editorial and portraiture. Since nineteen eighty-two, I have also documented human sexuality.

I have known the man behind Jefferson for nearly a decade, first in a professional capacity and now as a friend. I’ve always been impressed by his intellectual curiosity and the respect and care he brings to sensitive subject matter.

These qualities continue to impress me as I’ve come to know his work as “Jefferson.” I’ve read his blog, attended his classes and observed his interactions with others. He brings great intelligence, humor and warmth to all of these. His blog is regarded as essential reading by those in the sex-positive community. Whereas other texts seek to teach by instruction, One Life, Take Two does so by example. Readers learn as “Jefferson” learns. We follow him through his passions, his upsets and his joy in the everyday, particularly in his stories about parenting. As a fellow artist, I fully respect the power of his documentary approach.

If anyone has exemplified responsibility in writing on sex and sexuality, it is Jefferson. I strongly support his right to continue writing freely.

I know the struggles Jefferson now faces. I was co-plaintiff in Nitke v Gonzalez, 413 F. Supp.2d 262 SDNY (2005), as we brought a pre-enforcement challenge to the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) on the ground that it was unconstitutionally overbroad. While I succeeded in proving that I had standing to bring that pre-enforcement challenge, unfortunately, the court held us to an impossible burden of providing "sufficient" evidence regarding "the total amount of speech that is implicated by the CDA and the amount of protected speech lacking in serious value, but potentially not patently offensive or appealing to the prurient interest in all communities."

While we did not completely succeed in that case, the struggle to protect free speech and freedom of expression continues. I am heartened that many of the organizations and activists allied with me in that case are now rallying around Jefferson to support him in his current battle to preserve both his joint child custody and his freedom of speech and expression protections. Any silencing of Jefferson is a loss for art, free speech and the personal freedoms we cherish so much here in the United States of America.


Barbara Nitke

Make an ANONYMOUS, TAX-DEDUCTIBLE contribution to Jefferson’s legal defense by visiting the Sexual Freedom Defense and Education Fund at:

Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund

Please remember to specify that your donation is earmarked for the Jefferson Legal Defense Fund. The Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund affirms that these earmarked donations are tax deductible.

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