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Porn must have a warning label under a new bill in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 5:39 AM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 23:01:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Any pornography distributed in Utah must carry a warning label describing potential negative impacts to youth, under a new bill introduced in the state legislature.

House Bill 243, sponsored by Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, would mandate the warning label for any adult publication or video. The warning label would read:

"Exposing minors to pornography is known to the state of Utah to cause negative impacts to brain development, emotional development, and the ability to maintain intimate relationships. Such exposure may lead to harmful and addictive sexual behavior, low self-esteem, and the improper objectification of and sexual violence towards others, among numerous other harms."

Rep. Brammer's bill would mandate that adult content producers post the warning, similar to California product label requirements. In fact, he modeled his legislation after that.

"A lot of people have seen California warnings on products about toxic substances. It would be enforced in the same way it enforces theirs," he said in an interview Tuesday with FOX 13.

For videos, the warning label must be up for 15 seconds. On printed publications, it must be prominently displayed. Failure to do so could result in a legal action by the Utah Attorney General's Office and a $2,500 fine per violation, the bill states.

"A lot of people are clicking on something, they don’t want to see it, they like to have a little heads up before they see an image they really, it’s not what they’re getting into," Rep. Brammer said.

But the Free Speech Coalition, a trade group that represents the adult entertainment industry, said it would oppose the bill.

"The Utah bill is compelled speech, and is unconstitutional on its face. The government has been prohibited time and again, in both conservative and liberal cases, from forcing individuals or companies to communicate a particular message," coalition spokesman Mike Stabile said in an email to FOX 13.

The Free Speech Coalition warned of litigation over the bill, arguing it was too broad and could cover "basic nudity" and even "non-explicit sexual situations" such as a Kim Kardashian selfie or the TV show "Game of Thrones."

"It doesn't require that anyone be adversely affected, or even that a minor see it. It's a lawsuit bonanza," Stabile wrote. "Adult content should be limited to adults, but this legislation does nothing in that regard. The more effective, and common sense solution, is simply for parents to be involved in their children's online activity and devices."

Rep. Brammer said he believed it could withstand a legal challenge.

"I think they’ve got an uphill battle in the state of Utah to fight against an obscenity law like this," he told FOX 13.

The Utah State Legislature has endorsed anti-pornography stances in the past. In 2016, the legislature approved a resolution by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, that declared porn a "public health crisis." The resolution, a first of its kind, generated international attention on the state. However, since then, other legislatures have considered similar legislation.

"We’re not banning their speech. We’re just asking them to put a warning label before they show it," Rep. Brammer said.