Tag Archives: Utah

Utah’s Porn Resolution is an Obscenity

Pornographic film set, December 2007. Pictured...
Pornographic film set, December 2007. Pictured are Mikey Butders, Cali Chase, and a photographer simply identified as Nicole.The photograph was taken by Larry Knowles for an article for The Naughty American website called “One Fine Day on a Porn Set” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On April 19, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution passed and forwarded to him by both houses of the state’s legislature: “[T]he Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, recognizes that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms; and recognizes the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation.”

For the moment, the resolution has no real legal effect. It’s just a statement of sentiment and resolve to eventually do … well, something. Par for the course in political demagoguery, in other words. It is nonetheless, to use a word that appears down in the resolution’s detailed list of complaints, “toxic” in two ways.

The first is obvious: We have a First Amendment for a reason, and claims that it only extends to whatever speech and press politicians don’t think they can make hay by attacking this week don’t stand up to scrutiny.

I don’t have to like porn (I’m not going to try to convince you I’ve never looked at it). You don’t have to like porn (maybe you do, maybe you don’t). Governor Herbert and the Utah legislature don’t have to like porn (yes, I do wonder). If you don’t like it, don’t view it. Unless the participants in it are children or adults acting under compulsion, whether or not anyone else views it is None. Of. Your. Business.

Secondly, resolutions of this kind further degrade and politicize the terms “public health” and “epidemic.” At one time, those terms were arguably useful. They referred to legitimate epidemiology, i.e. the spread of pathogens (the prime example being the tale of John Snow tracing a cholera epidemic to a particular well and ending it by removing the pump handle).

Volitional human behavior — such as having sex in front of a camera or watching people have sex on camera — isn’t a pathogen per se, any more than “gun violence” — another “public health” hobgoblin raised by demagogues for political purposes — is.

And as has historically been the case with “gun violence” per the Centers for Disease Control et. al, Herbert and company fudge the evidence to reach the results they want regardless of the facts. As the Free Speech Coalition notes, “access to adult entertainment correlates pretty clearly historically and geographically with declines in sex crime.” Which may explain why rape reports declined by 14% between 2005 and 2014 in Utah, the state with America’s highest porn consumption rate.

Perhaps Herbert and his pals should work on ending the remaining 86% of rapes instead of on obscene grandstanding.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Marriage Freedom: Yes, Polygamy is Next

Turn of the century photograph of the entire f...
Turn of the century photograph of the entire family of Joseph F. Smith, a known polygamist. This picture depicts members of his family, including his sons and daughters, as well as their spouses and children. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the bad old days before the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, many opponents of same-sex marriage warned us that if it became legal, polygamy would be next. They were — some no doubt for the the first time in their lives — right. Polygamy is, as it should be, next.

In 2013, a federal judge struck down part of Utah’s ban on marriages of more than two in a case involving the Brown family from the reality TV show “Sister Wives.” The ruling didn’t require the state to issue “marriage licenses” to more than two partners, but it did invalidate the rule against cohabitation of those partners.

On March 2, Utah’s House of Representatives attempted to resuscitate the ban, passing a bill that, if it makes it through the Senate and past the governor’s desk and over the inevitable court challenge hurdles, would punish cohabiting parties of more than two who SAY they are married.

Yes, you read that right. No, it’s never going to pass constitutional muster.

If you get in a car and take off down the road without a driver’s license, you’re still driving. If you get married without a marriage license, you’re still married. A law forbidding you to mention that you’re driving, or that you’re married, belongs on the list of dumbest ideas ever.

What does it mean to be married? For many, marriage has religious features, but those vary. At bottom marriage is a contractual arrangement that has evolved, just like every other kind of contractual arrangement, in many directions over the millennia. Government control of the possible permutations of such arrangements is neither necessary, nor desirable, nor morally defensible.

In fact, marriage licensing appeared in the mid-19th century in the US for the specific purpose of enabling states to ban interracial marriage. It’s one of the last and most stubborn remnants of Jim Crow. It’s time to bring an end to that era of darkness. The developing fight over polygamy is custom-made to hasten that outcome. The more complex marriage becomes, the less workable one-size-fits-all licensing schemes become.

Libertarian science fiction author Robert Heinlein envisioned a future in which various forms of marriage flourish, allowing families to conserve capital over centuries instead of mere decades and create perpetual rather than temporary  legacies to support their descendants. We’re standing in the doorway of that future.  Time to step through.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.