- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah lawmakers signed off on a proposal on Friday that would allow pornography distributors to be sued if a minor exposed to the material says they were hurt by it.

Calling porn addictive and harmful, bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told members of a House judiciary committee that “watching this type of filth is going to shape (minors’) perceptions about sex and about women potentially for the rest of their lives.”

Last year, he led an effort for Utah to declare pornography a public health crisis, contending that pornography is addictive and distorts children’s thinking about sex, threatens marriages and contributes to sexual violence.

Weiler said if a 16-year-old boy was compulsively watching pornography, and the parents spent thousands of dollars to get him counseling, this new bill would allow them to sue the distributor to get that money. He compared the proposal to someone being able to sue a company that feeds them a chicken nugget with glass inside it.

Defenders of pornography have argued that critics are pushing hyperbole and that sexually explicit materials can be a safe outlet for some.

The bill, which will now go to the House for consideration, does not make pornography distributors liable if they include a warning about the harms that pornography can have on children and attempt to verify the age of the consumer.

“We don’t want information coming to our kids giving them any ideas that pornography or the kinds of things that are manufactured and provided to people by way of pornography, are in anyway indicative of what a healthy sexual relationship is like,” said Democratic Rep. Brian King, speaking in favor of the proposal during the meeting.

Weiler also introduced a bill this year that would require public libraries in Utah to install blockers on their wireless networks to prevent people from viewing obscene content in libraries. It has received unanimous support in the House and Senate.

Utah’s anti-pornography declaration last year was symbolic and didn’t ban or regulate anything, but it stirred a national discussion about porn. The state’s stance was incorporated into the official platform of the Republican Party during the national GOP convention last summer.

Weiler said he hopes that if Utah passes this new bill, other states will do the same. “We are a pioneer in the anti-pornography battle,” he said.

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