Utah: Anti-Porn Senator Becomes Unlikely Champion of Amateur Content

Utah: Anti-Porn Senator Becomes Unlikely Champion of Amateur Content

SALT LAKE CITY — The indiscriminate zeal shown by Utah legislators trying to one-up each other in their efforts to criminalize depictions of sex through a variety of bill proposals has started to concern even some of the most hardcore anti-porn crusaders among them.

Last week Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), one of the staunchest advocates of anti-porn legislation, surprisingly raised a privacy issue concerning consensual depictions of sex during the debate of a bill that  would outlaw and penalize the “sharing of intimate images of someone without his or her consent” regardless of “whether a victim is alive to suffer emotional distress.”

HB 147, which easily cleared the State House earlier this month, was prompted by the killing of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, who was shot in October 2018 by a man she had dated. Before her death, the UoU student-athlete had “shared intimate photos with a university police officer to aid in the investigation of her eventual killer, Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, who was blackmailing her with the photos,” as local paper Deseret News reported.

According to an investigation by the Utah Department of Public Safety, the officer accessed those pictures “multiple times and showed them to others on his phone on at least four occasions.”

"The state’s revenge porn law requires victims to suffer ‘actual emotional distress’ for charges to be filed, which couldn’t occur because McCluskey was already dead by the time the officer shared the photos," the Deseret News report continued.

The Senate was expected to pass the bill without much debate, although, as XBIZ pointed out, the wording seemed overbroad for its alleged intent.

Unexpectedly, it wasn’t a Free Speech advocate but Sen. Weiler — one of the prime movers of Utah’s “porn is a public health crisis” legislation — who raised that very issue during the Senate debate.

“This is a little bit uncomfortable, but let me just tell you. My concern with the language that the House sent over, and I know this will shock you,” Weiler told the Senate on Thursday, according to Deseret News. “But some couples actually record themselves in intimate positions and share those videos with other people. I know that’s hard to believe, but it happens.”

The bill as written, Weiler pointed out, would expand the definition of “revenge porn” to include “anyone who’s died” and “could lead to families who have lost someone ‘to go after the deceased person’s spouse for things that may have been consensually shared.’”

Weiler then proposed to amend the text of HB 147 to spell out that the new crime would only apply if the victims themselves had provided the photos or videos to law enforcement.

By narrowing the wording to the specific context of the Lauren McCluskey case, Weiler’s amendment would criminalize the sharing of material “without a legitimate law enforcement or investigative purpose by an individual who had access to the intimate image due to the individual’s association with the investigation or prosecution.”

Main Image: Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross). Source: Utah Senate.

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