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Governor backs resolution calling porn ‘a public health hazard’

Governor backs resolution calling porn ‘a public health hazard’
Posted at 10:39 AM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 23:50:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a ceremonial bill signing, Utah Governor Gary Herbert backed legislation that labels pornography a "public health crisis."

Before a packed room of applauding supporters and anti-pornography advocates, the governor signed Sen. Todd Weiler's resolution that has generated international headlines. (Governor Herbert had actually signed the bills into law weeks ago -- Tuesday's bill signing was purely ceremonial.)

"We become the first state in the United States to declare pornography a health issue, a health concern, a health crisis," the governor told the crowd. "We realize this is a bold assertion. Some will disagree with us. We recognize that, but we're here to say with our bold assertion that pornography is a health crisis."

The governor also signed a bill by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, mandating that information technology workers report child pornography to law enforcement if it is discovered on a computer, or face a misdemeanor criminal charge.

Governor Herbert declared pornography "destructive to society as a whole." He was flanked by anti-pornography advocates who claim pornography is reaching younger and younger children and warping their views of sexuality and linked it to exploitation including prostitution and child trafficking.

The governor insisted the legislation was not restricting First Amendment rights, "but sounding a voice of warning." The resolution calls for additional research on the dangers of pornography. Other supporters of the bill called for lawmakers to take even further action -- including blocking adult site access on public WiFi networks and switching the standard to "opt-in."

"The legislature has declared that people do not have the right to smoke anywhere they want in public places," said Dr. Jennifer Brown, an anti-pornography activist. "I boldly assert pornography is more dangerous than second-hand smoke."

Sen. Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told FOX 13 he is not proposing any mandates -- but wanted his non-binding resolution to call awareness.

"I'm not trying to pass any laws. What I passed was a resolution, it doesn't spend any money, it doesn't make any laws, it's a statement of intent. It's a message to parents and the community we need to be careful with a dangerous and addictive substance," he said.

Sen. Weiler's resolution has been both praised and mocked as word of it spread across the world with some claiming Utah was trying to "ban pornography." He said he was "happy to take the shots" because it sparks discussion about harms associated with pornography.

"We need every parent comfortable talking to their teenagers about pornography," he said.

In a statement to FOX 13, the adult entertainment industry group Free Speech Coalition called the legislation "an old-fashioned morals bill, not one grounded in science."

"What we should be concerned about is not adult entertainment or sexuality, but with bills like this that traffic in shame and censorship. We should live in a society where sexuality is spoken about openly, and discussed in nuanced and educated ways, and not stigmatized," Free Speech Coalition spokesman Mike Stabile wrote. "We all should work together to prevent non-adults from accessing adult material. Unfortunately, legislators in Utah and elsewhere are often uninterested in actual solutions, such as the use of opt-in networks or speaking with their children about sex, in favor of morals campaigns that traffic in ignorance and bias."