Pornography lawsuit bill approved by Utah Senate panel; bill would give immunity in certain cases

Virginia, South Dakota vote overwhelmingly to recognize porn as ‘public health crisis’

Todd Weiler Utah
Image by: BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner

A bill opening pornographers up to civil lawsuits was approved by a Senate panel Thursday.

Members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 3-0 in support of SB185, which establishes a cause of action for children who suffer “emotional or psychological harm” from viewing graphic, adult content.

The bill excludes internet service providers, online search engines and satellite television providers, sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said, and would not apply to adults who view explicit content.

“My target on this bill is the actual websites that are hosting pornographic material,” Weiler said.

Weiler’s proposal also includes a safe-harbor provision, making pornographers immune from lawsuits if they attach a warning to their content and make a good-faith effort to prevent minors from accessing graphic material.

A recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 57 percent of Utahns support Weiler’s bill.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said SB185 is an additional step in the right direction, following a resolution sponsored by Weiler last year that declared pornography a “public health crisis” in the state of Utah.

“Creating a way to hold people accountable for the harm done to children,” Ruzicka said, “it can’t be better than that.”

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said protecting children is among the proper roles of government.

“Adults should be able to do whatever they want,” Escamilla said. “But when it comes to children, we should be advocates for protecting them.”

Propelled by the committee vote, the bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

bwood@sltrib.com

Twitter: @bjaminwood

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