Warning signs could be required at Utah events with 'adult content'

Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 21, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that passed in a Utah House committee will put warning signs on certain public events that could have adult content.

House Bill 329 requires events in public spaces to warn parents and families if there are any adult themes, and leave it up to cities, counties, municipalities or universities to decide what’s constitutes that description.

“One is to protect minors, and two is to empower parents,” said Rep. Colin Jack, the bill's sponsor from St. George.

He added that the warning is just a notice, like with any other means of entertainment.

“Much like you get the notice you get on Netflix when you sit in your living room and watch a movie,” said Rep. Jack.

Southern Utah mother Alexis Ence supports the bill.

“There’s something to be said about just allowing parents notice so that we can make informed choices about whether we want to consent or protect our children from adult content and that’s not a new thing," she said.

The bill comes after a community drag show part of the HBO series "We're Here" was shown in a St. George public park.

One of the amendments adopted in the committee would add parades to that list of events, but Rep. James Dunnigan, who chairs the committee, says it’s hard to let every person at a parade know that what they see is being deemed possibly not for kids to watch.

“It’s a scramble just to get all the streets closed and signs up," he said. "It needs a lot of volunteers to do it, posting a sign or something is just going to be litter."

Another criticism of the bill is that it could get cities in legal hot water.

“We feel like this is actually a trap and not a tool for cities and counties,” said Marina Lowe, policy director with Equality Utah. “If they choose to go down the path of labeling events as adult theme or needing parental guidance, they are really opening themselves up to litigation.”

Lowe added that by letting governments decide what is safe for children and what isn’t, could curb free speech.

“The fact of the matter is when you label something as adult themed, that stigmatizes that speech and has a chilling effect on people wanting to engage in that speech in the first place. That’s what the first amendment is there to protect against,” she said.

The bill goes to the House floor next.