Dec 20, 2022 - Politics

Adult film industry warns Sen. Mike Lee's obscenity bill could ban online porn

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 07, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Mike Lee at a December news conference in D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a bill last week that would redefine obscenity under the Communications Act of 1934.

  • It would define it as content that depicts "actual or simulated sexual acts with the objective intent to arouse, titillate, or gratify the sexual desires of a person" and lacks artistic or scientific value, according to a summary of the bill released by Lee.

Yes, but: Some porn industry leaders fear it could criminalize online pornography in the U.S.

Background: Obscene materials are not protected by the First Amendment.

  • Federal and state courts determine whether content is obscene by using a three-pronged approach called the Miller test, named after the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. California.
  • The test asks whether the average person would find the material, taken as a whole, appealing to "prurient interest"; whether it's depicted in "a patently offensive way" and whether it lacks "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."
  • Under the Miller test, according to the bill's summary, obscenity is difficult to define, let alone prosecute.

What they're saying: "It would basically criminalize 99% of nudity and sexually explicit content," Mike Stabile, director of public affairs for the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, told Axios.

  • Stabile said the bill is "tremendously scary" for sex workers who create adult content online.
  • Stabile said he doesn't believe the bill has a chance of moving forward, but said people should take it seriously.

Of note: A spokesperson for Lee did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

The latest: Lee also introduced legislation last week that would require commercial porn websites to use age verification technology to bar children from accessing the content, the Deseret News reported.

Flashback: In 2016, Utah became the first state in the nation to declare pornography "a public health crisis." By 2019, more than a dozen GOP-led states had declared similar resolutions, per USA Today.

  • In 2017, then-Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill that would allow parties to sue porn companies if children who viewed pornography were harmed by it.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

No stories could be found

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more