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After drag show controversy, bill calls for warning labels for events with 'adult content'

Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 02, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill introduced in the Utah State Legislature would require shows on public property with potential adult themes to have a sign warning people about it.

Rep. Colin Jack, R-St. George, introduced House Bill 329, which requires any event granted a permit to use public property like a park or government-owned concert venue to post notices if the event is deemed to have adult content.

"The overriding issue is protecting children from adult oriented entertainment," Rep. Jack said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13 News. "And giving parents information so they can decide whether they’re bringing their children to a particular event. The thing we’ve been very careful with this bill is to not infringe on First Amendment rights."

Rep. Jack acknowledged the bill was run in response to controversy in his community surrounding a drag show in a public park. The show, which was filmed for the HBO series "We're Here" led to the resignation of the St. George city manager and city council meetings where residents weighed in on the show.

"It is in response to the controversies, right," he said. "Hopefully it gives us a path forward to save controversies while giving parents the ability to protect their children and either take them to a show or not take them to a show."

But he said his bill did not target drag shows specifically. Nor does it dictate anything in a private business. Instead, the bill's language focuses on any event in a public space where there might be adult content including "nudity, sexual content or excessive profanity." He said the bill left it up to each community to decide what is appropriate and what should have to have a label.

"They can decide does this meet our community standards or not," he said. "It's not the same community standard from Salt Lake to St. George."

The LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah said the bill does appear to be about drag shows and raises some First Amendment issues that would sweep up other events into it. Marina Lowe, Equality Utah's policy director, said there were questions about compelled speech and creates "a trap" for public entities to label events as "adult" in nature.

"There's just really vague language in this bill about what constitutes an adult event," said Lowe. "I suspect that any entity that decides to label something as adult only? Will be facing litigation."

Lowe said her group was concerned that putting an "adult" label on something could have a chilling effect on free speech.

Rep. Jack said his bill creates a process to make it clear for everyone what they're getting into and he didn't believe the bill has legal problems.

"I don't believe that there are grounds for a lawsuit. Whether there is a lawsuit or not, that's another issue," he said.