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Definition Edit

A minor is an underage child.

Constitutional rights Edit

Minors are

"persons" under our Constitution. . . . possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect"[1] and "are entitled to a significant measure of First Amendment protection."[2]

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that "the strength of the Government's interest in protecting minors is not equally strong throughout the [age] coverage."[3] The constitutional rights of minors, including their First Amendment rights, get stronger as they grow older. As the Court has said, "constitutional rights do not mature and come into being magically only when one attains the state-defined age of majority,"[4] and these rights ripen at different times and in different contexts.

The precise contours of the First Amendment rights of minors, even acknowledging that they may well vary with age and maturity, are uncertain. The Supreme Court has held that certain minors have constitutional rights in certain circumstances that trump a general deference to parental authority, for example, in the case of a mature minor seeking an abortion[5] or privacy rights about the use of contraception.[6]

Further, it is arguable that mature minors have a First Amendment right to receive information relevant to the exercise of these substantive rights. Whether and in what circumstances a minor has a First Amendment right of access to adult-oriented entertainment websites remains an open question. But even if minors do not themselves have a constitutional right to access such material, the government cannot unduly burden the rights of adults to such material in order to keep it away from children.

References Edit

  1. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 511 (1969)(full-text); see Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 899 (1992)(full-text) (parental consent statute must contain method by which minor can obtain abortion without parental consent); see In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 13 (1967) (full-text) (minors' right to criminal due process).
  2. Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205, 212-13 (1975)(full-text) (citation omitted).
  3. Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 878 (1997)(full-text) (using examples of 17-year-olds); American Booksellers Association v. Webb, 919 F.2d 1493, 1504-05 (11th Cir. 1990); American Booksellers Association v. Virginia, 882 F.2d 125, 127 (4th Cir. 1989) (full-text).
  4. Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, 74 (1976) (full-text) (minors' right to abortion).
  5. Id. at 640-43; Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 899 (1992) (full-text); Lambert v. Wicklund, 520 U.S. 292 (1997) (full-text).
  6. See Carey v. Population Servs. Int'l, 431 U.S. 678 (1977) (full-text) (plurality opinion). Although Carey was a plurality opinion, the holding that teenagers have privacy rights regarding procreation commanded five votes. See 431 U.S. at 681 (plurality opinion) (Justice Brennan, joined by Justices Stewart, Marshall, and Blackmun); Id. at 693, 702 (Justice White, concurring) (agreeing with plurality in result and including "with respect to Part IV" in which plurality recognized privacy interests of minors in contraception).

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