West Virginia Republican Seeks to Redefine 'Obscene' and 'Prurient'

West Virginia Republican Seeks to Redefine 'Obscene' and 'Prurient'

CHARLESTON, W. Va. —A controversial West Virginia state senator introduced this month two bills attempting to redefine “obscene matter” and “prurient interest” in the state, in an effort to censor sexual content.

Republican Sen. Michael Azinger’s bills “would prohibit obscene and sexually explicit materials in or within 2,500 feet of the state’s schools and would bar children from being present for obscene performances or displays,” NBC News reported.

At issue is Azinger’s novel redefinition of “obscene,” which goes beyond citing material that appeals to the “prurient interest” or is “patently offensive” to include specifically any “transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display to any minor.” 

NBC News notes that “no other group of people or specific type of performance is included,” adding that advocates are concerned that the broad language of the bill could end up legally designating the very existence of transgender people as “indecent displays of a sexually explicit nature.” 

Eli Baumwell, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, told NBC News that Azinger’s bills are “plainly unconstitutional” and “too extreme for even this Legislature.”

Free Speech Coalition (FSC) this week counted Azinger’s bills among a list of recent laws and legislative proposals that they termed “the most aggressive censorship we've seen in decades.”

Azinger, a far-right state politician who marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has long defended his proposals to criminalize LGBTQ+ people

“The left would have us believe we are ‘born that way,’ that sexuality is immutable,” Azinger wrote in a 2019 editorial. “This simply isn’t the case. The LGBQT movement is not about happiness and tolerance, but about indoctrination and a forced acceptance of a perverted and non-biblical view of sexuality.”

As XBIZ reported, Republicans throughout the country are seeking to outlaw all adult content by overturning the 1973 “Miller Test” differentiating First Amendment-protected sexual material from illegal “obscene” material produced to appeal to “a prurient interest.”

The United States does not currently have a national definition of obscenity. Jurisprudence has established the Miller Test, which has been a legal standard in federal courts for a half-century.

Main Image: West Virginia State Senator Mike Azinger (R-Wood)

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