A proposed bill in the Utah legislature would require adult content to carry a warning attesting to the alleged dangers of viewing, or face a $2500 fine. The bill is unsupported by scientific facts, and very clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that such requirements are “compelled speech,” and a violation of First Amendment rights. The government can not force its citizens or organizations to convey a specific message, especially one political in nature.

The proponent, State Representative Brady Brammer, likens his proposal — which would mandate a fifteen-second clip before any video featuring nudity — to warning labels on toxic chemicals. However, toxic chemicals are highly regulated, and not a form of speech. They possess no First Amendment protections. Videos, photographs, and live performances are speech, and their creators are protected. (As for the dangers, the bill quotes no science or studies — in fact, there is no credible evidence to support the legislator’s claims.)

When it comes to adults, consumption of adult entertainment has been shown to decrease stress, increase tolerance and produce more egalitarian attitudes toward women. Over the past two decades, the availability to adult content has skyrocketed, and yet the rates of divorce, teen pregnancy and sexual assault have all fallen dramatically. 

The scope of the bill is dangerously broad and would open not just explicit content, but mere nudity. All manner of film, video, and social media content could be subject to prosecution. Under the bill, individual citizens are financially rewarded for bringing lawsuits against such content — from a Game of Thrones clip to a Kim Kardashian selfie — if it shows so much as a bared breast and does not carry a warning of the dangers.

We have no doubt that should this bill be passed, the likely targets would be a long list of targets social conservatives regularly deem obscene — from feminist art and LGBTQ film to comprehensive sex education texts. The State of Utah and its taxpayers would be on the hook for millions of dollars defending a law that is ultimately indefensible.

Adult content should be limited to adults, but this bill accomplishes little in that regard. Instead, it punishes speech that is not in lock step with the moral views of the bill’s proponent. If Rep. Brammer wants to keep minors from accessing adult material, he should work on a proven effective solution: helping parents be more involved in their children’s online lives and installing effective filters on their devices.


For media inquiries, please contact press@freespeechcoalition.com