Porn lawsuit bill moves to House for final vote

File photo form March 2015: Republican Sen. Todd Weiler speaks on the senate floor at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. Weiler, wants to declare pornography a public health crisis, echoing an argument being made around the U.S. by conservative religious groups as porn becomes more accessible on smartphones and tablets. Utah lawmakers are scheduled to discuss the resolution Friday, Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Proposed legislation that would allow lawsuits against pornography distributors for alleged harm caused to minors is just a House floor vote away from passing the Legislature.

2017’s Senate Bill 185, Cause of Action for Minors Injured by Pornography, is sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, and is a follow up to 2016’s legislative resolution that declared pornography a public health crisis.

Weiler’s bill passed the House Judiciary Committee Friday with an 8-3 vote. Prior to the House committee vote, it passed the Utah Senate Monday with a unanimous vote.

File photo: Gov. Gary Herbert and others gather for the ceremonial signing of Sen. Todd Weiler’s resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 19, 2016 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Governor’s Office, St. George News

The 2016 anti-porn resolution, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert and drew international attention, something Weiler said he hadn’t expected – and which he has been praised and mocked for since – deserved a follow-up, he said to the House committee Friday.

“If you declare pornography to be a public health hazard, then you should do something about it,” Weiler said.

The bill was “basically a products liability bill,” he said. That means that while it does not restrict the production and distribution or sale of a product, people can still sue the manufacturer/distributor of said product if they believe it has harmed them in some fashion.

He compared it to buying food that has glass in it and causes physical harm once eaten. The food can still be sold, but the producer of it can also be sued provided the plaintiff is able to convince a judge and/or jury of the claim.

We’re not telling them they can’t distribute porn. We’re not telling them people can’t watch it,” Weiler said, “but (they) can be responsible for the damages.”

In the case of minors and pornography, Weiler said 11 is the average age children are exposed to pornographic material in Utah.

The pornographic material minors can be exposed to on the internet isn’t like the nude centerfolds Playboy had when he was a kid either, Weiler said. Today it is far beyond that.

According to a study Weiler cited, an estimated 80 percent of free sex videos online display acts of violence toward women, including rape. The ease with which minors can access online pornography is disturbing, he said.

“This bill is tailored to minors,” Weiler said. “It is illegal for minors to view pornography (in Utah). It is illegal for somebody to show pornography to minors.”

Provided an individual or family is able to reach the a satisfactory burden of proof in court that a pornography supplier has caused harm to a minor, an example of a judgment could involve the supplier covering the cost of the minor’s counseling and rehabilitation fees, Weiler said.

Rep. Brad Kind, D-Salt Lake City, asked Weiler if someone could sue pornography suppliers under current law.

Weiler said someone could, but as there is no real precedent established in that regard, it would likely be dismissed. Having the proposed legislation on the books would help put a little more weight behind a potential suit. Still, the lawsuit has to reach the necessary burden of proof to be considered viable, he said.

That would be a difficult lawsuit to win,” Weiler said.

There are ways pornography websites can avoid getting sued, however. Weiler called a “safe harbor” spelled out in the bill that “the most important part.”

Under the bill, a pornography website would have to supply a warning of some kind informing the consumer that pornography can be harmful to children. This would be similar to warnings about smoking on cigarette packs, Weiler said.

The websites would also have to make a “good faith effort” at verifying the age of site visitors.

While the House committee expressed general support for the bill, there was a part that gave some of the committee members concern.

A line in the bill stated that “the court may award the prevailing party attorneys fees and costs.”

Weiler said that was added as a way to “level the playing field” against potential abuses by lawsuit-happy attorneys. It was also added as a compromise with certain parties concerned about the bill, he said.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said he appreciated the warning given to potential plaintiffs but also sees it as a disincentive for anyone to pursue a lawsuit. He asked if Weiler would be willing to strike that part out of the bill.

“If we strip this out, in the committee, I think you on the House floor … are going to get lobbied to death to kill the bill,” Weiler said. If the committee does vote to purge the language, he asked that they consider adding it back in on the House floor.

Prior to the committee vote, Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, motioned the committee pass a substitute of the bill striking the line calling for attorneys fees and costs to the prevailing party in a lawsuit.

I can’t imagine sending a family up against a billion-dollar industry and expect them to lose their house, their livelihood in this kind of battle,” McKell said.

The substitute bill passed 8-3 vote delivering a favorable recommendation from the committee. It now goes to the House floor.

Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, voted in favor of the bill.

Resources

Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2017 issues

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

14 Comments

  • great success March 4, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    War against porn, war against alcohol…products the Mormon Church clearly invests no tithing funds in.

    But opioids on the other hand…

    Why so vague year after year Mormon Church and Mormon Lawmakers on opioids? Why do we have to hear about porn and alcohol each legislative session, with expensive and extensive accompanying legislation?

    The state has averaged roughly 24 overdose deaths on opioids a month. According to CDC data, Utah during a recent ten year sample averages 4 alcohol DUI deaths a month. Utah actually does remarkably well when it comes to alcohol related casualties compared to other states. And this with the .08 system. But in opioids casualties Utah scores in the top ranks recently, right along with other states like West Virginia where Oxycodone was heavily targeted when first introduced.

    If we have such righteous indignation for the harm of certain consumer products in this state, why not start with where Utah statistically and factually is hurting? By sheer numbers alone, wouldn’t Utah save many more lives with expensive and extensive legislation that has a meaningful impact on opioid use and abuse. Instead of porn?

    Wouldn’t we save more sheep??

    • comments March 5, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Utah is an extremely backwardly run state. Lowest funded schools & Didn’t they just bring back a full tax on food. That’s the most regressive taxation possible. Maybe so many of the old men of LDS royalty are addicted to opioids that they don’t want their supply messed with, who knows. Maybe Orrin Hatch can answer for this stuff–he’s been around long enough to know, the greedy old ——-.

  • comments March 4, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    This is completely idiotic. It’s a little like the victims of school shootings trying to sue the video game makers. It just doesn’t work. There’s no way a judgement would hold up in a higher court even if they got one. The best thing I can think of to keep little children from viewing porn is some kind of filter on home wifi. I don’t know what’s available now but something like that should become common and cheap. They’ve already decided porn is protected under the 1st amendment. Unless they want to make all porn illegal as is child porn I don’t see how they can legally stop the spread of it. As of now it’s up to parents to keep an eye on what the kids do online. I actually despise smut peddlers, and it’s too bad we can’t get rid of them, but as of now what they do is legal. I actually wish we could clean out all the zionist influences in our culture (which includes porn). Hollywood zionist filth culture.

    • McMurphy March 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      It would seem that if there was a judgement against a porn distributor the distributor could then sue the parents of the injured child for failure to control what the child views and failure to use whatever means are available, such as filters, to prevent porn from being viewed.
      You can sue the maker of a automobile crash bag if the faulty bag injures you. What about if you have ignored news reports about the problem and ignored recall from the auto manufacturer? Probable damage from children viewing porn has been widely publicized — what have you done, Mr & Mrs Parent to keep your child safe?

  • .... March 5, 2017 at 6:54 am

    We got Bob the bigot who can’t make a comment about anything without showing his hate and disgust against any type of religion and the people that choose to accept that part of their life. and he comes and pretends to be the voice of reason .what a joke

    • voice of reason March 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Yeah, he shouldn’t pretend to be me! For the record, I think the law is stupid as well. The bigger issue is the failure to discuss sexuality in real and meaningful ways, which leads people to seek out porn as a teacher, which can lead to unrealistic expectations of future sexual activities, which would all be prevented if we would have real and meaningful discussions with children about sexuality. If it wasn’t all so taboo, we would have far fewer issues with it. Maybe we should allow people to sue their parents for failing to teach them that sex is natural and can be fun, especially when practiced safely in the bonds of a committed relationship (our outside those bonds if that’s your thing. Or maybe you like the bonds. Whatever floats your boat)

      • comments March 5, 2017 at 11:10 pm

        It sounds like your saying that parents should show little kids porn. Kids seek out porn because it’s something they know they aren’t supposed to see. It has nothing to do with sexuality. When we were kids we’d sneak dirty magazines–playboys and what not, and that was enough. 8 year old kids today can view bestiality porn and worse with just a few clicks. Maybe parents should have that discussion with their 8-10 yr olds too, huh? Bottom line: you’re an idiot.

        • voice of reason March 6, 2017 at 9:58 am

          Your problem is you interpreted my comments to mean something other than exactly what I said. Bottom line: right back at you dude.

          • comments March 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm

            You could put every kid thru a year’s worth of sex ed and human sexuality courses and most would still view porn at some point. Your comment is idiotic. That’s all.

      • comments March 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

        leftist, hedonistic nihilist atheists should not have children on their views of sexuality alone.

    • Chris March 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      the joke is clearly you and anyone else who defends the idiocy of religion. more suffering and destruction has resulted from religious disputes than any other cause in the history of mankind.

    • Real Life March 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Hey dummy, get back to bed!

  • aviatormh March 5, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    idiocy of religion? One of the great things about America is everyone is free to believe what ever they want. Just because someone’s beliefs are different doesn’t make them silly or dumb. As you just pointed out it is people that cause suffering and destruction not Thier beliefs. Just look at the intolerance and violence caused by the anti Trump protesters in Oregon. It’s not press trumps ideas or policy that is causing harm it’s intolerant people who think we should all have the same beliefs. Religion is the same. It’s not Christian beliefs causing harm. In fact Christ taught “turn the other cheek”. Anyone causing harm in Christ’s name is not following his own religion. Again religion is not the problem here it’s intolerant people. But hey that’s just what I believe.

Leave a Reply