Utah lawmakers get tough on porn, remove jail threat for consenting adult polygamists to protect minors

Utah lawmakers get tough on porn, remove jail threat for consenting adult polygamists to protect minors
(Getty Images)

Lawmakers in Utah on Tuesday, February 18, voted to out new restrictions on pornography and remove some on polygamy in separate proposals that were rushed through the state’s legislature.

The senators of the Beehive state voted unanimously to change the state law to remove jail threat for consenting adult polygamists -- a move that supporters argue will liberate people in communities that practice plural marriage, to report abuses without fearing prosecution, reported the Associated Press. The move was aimed at protecting children who were being taken as wives.

A majority of the population in the conservative state belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) which had an early history of polygamy but has forbidden it for over a century now, states an Associated Press report.

Pornographic materials need to carry warning 

Soon after dealing with the issue of polygamy, the House lawmakers approved a proposal that seeks pornography to have warning labels on them about potential harm to minors. This step faced a backlash as voices in the adult entertainment industry group called it a dark day for freedom of expression, the AP report added. 

The Mormon Church announced pornography as a public health crisis in 2016 and since then, more than 12 states have come up with similar proposals. The labeling proposal came from the red state’s fresh representative Brady Brammer and it would carry $2,500 as the potential penalty per violation, the report added. 

The freshman lawmaker Brammer felt it would make a difference. He said it won’t stop every problem related to obscenity but will move the ball further down the field. According to Brammer’s GOP colleagues, the move will lead to a creative solution as the state and residents would sue producers of objectionable materials appearing in print or online. 


Entertainment trade objects to tough move on pornography

But there is also a view against it. Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, group that deals with pornography and entertainment trade said the law could see thousands of lawsuits even if it is aimed at hardcore obscene material. 

“Really it just sort of opens up the floodgates for lawsuits over all sorts of content,” AP quoted him as saying. He also said the harms that have been outlined in the proposed label of warning have not been evident yet. The labels have to be approved by the Senate and the reduction in punishments for polygamy have to pass the House. 

On the issue of polygamy, the mainstream members abandoned the practice in 1890 but some 30,000 people still practice it in communities that are convinced that having multiple wives leads to exaltation in heaven. 

Polygamist Warren Jeffs and defense attorney Tara Isaacson listen to testimony during a preliminary hearing November 21, 2006, in St. George, Utah. (Getty Images)

Utah has also gone a step ahead by putting a ban on cohabitation with more than one purported house. Republican Senator Deidre Henderson’s move would make that an infraction instead of felony. There have been voices against the move as well as some former members of polygamous groups feel little convinced that it would help the victims, especially those who got married as minors. 

In Utah, people like Warren Jeffs and Kody Brown have been linked to polygamy and Henderson thinks there's fear in the state that has publicly refused to prosecute polygamists, who have been otherwise law-abiding, for years. 


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