US state Utah declares pornography a public health hazard
Utah has declared pornography a public health hazard and mandated that computer technicians who find child pornography on a computer report it to law enforcement authorities in Republican-backed moves supported by the Mormon Church.
The resolution declares pornography an epidemic that normalizes violence against women and children and makes men less likely to want to get married.
It was signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert after being passed by the Republican-led legislature in the conservative and heavily Mormon state with the support of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The volume of pornography in our society is staggering," Herbert said at a bill-signing ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah's capital. "I want to protect our families and our young people."
Supporters said Utah's moves would help combat human trafficking, pornography addiction and rape.
The resolution calls on the state legislature to research the impact of pornography and invest in education and efforts to prevent its production and use. It declares pornography "a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."
Herbert also signed a bill requiring technicians who find child pornography while working on someone's computer to report it, making it a misdemeanor for them to fail to do so.
At the signing ceremony, anti-pornography activist Jennifer Brown said viewing pornography derails healthy emotional and physical development in children and adolescents and fosters addiction to it. She called the pornography industry an "empire of destruction" driven by financial greed.
The Free Speech Coalition, an industry association representing adult entertainment producers, called the public health hazard designation an "old-fashioned morals bill" that was not grounded in science.
"We should live in a society where sexuality is spoken about openly, and discussed in nuanced and educated ways, not stigmatized," Free Speech Coalition spokesman Mike Stable said.
Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the Mormon Church's governing bodies, last month delivered the keynote address to the anti-pornography coalition's annual meeting, calling pornography a plague that tears the moral fabric of society.
A 2009 study by Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman showed that Utah had the highest per-capita rate of purchasing online adult-entertainment subscriptions in the United States.
Since the study was released, some Utah groups, including the website FairMormon.org, have disputed its results and questioned its methodology.