Kansas Republican Aims to Create New Bureaucracy to 'Investigate' Porn Websites

Kansas Republican Aims to Create New Bureaucracy to 'Investigate' Porn Websites

TOPEKA, Kan. — Republican state legislators succeeded Monday in moving forward Kansas’ version of the age verification bills being sponsored around the country by anti-porn religious conservative activists, despite serious concerns raised by House Democrats about the cost of establishing a new bureaucracy tasked with investigating websites for pornographic content.

SB 394, carried in the state House by Republican Rep. Susan Humphries, is now headed to the GOP-controlled Kansas House of Representatives for a full vote, expected in the next few days, Kansas’ Miami County Republic reported.

If passed, the bill would require age verification for accessing websites containing 25% or more content considered “harmful to minors” by the state.

Democrats warned that SB 394 would have a chilling effect on free speech in Kansas, and “could potentially stop teens from accessing classical works of art, books, LGBTQ material and other online content housed on websites, as well as potentially cost these websites thousands in legal fees,” the paper noted.

Democratic lawmakers also expressed concern that the bill would cost the state approximately $210,000 in fiscal year 2025 and $220,000 or more in fiscal 2026, to create new positions “to investigate websites,” the report added.

Humphries — whose pre-politics background is in marketing and Bible Studies workshops — dismissed these concerns, instead rallying her fellow Republicans with incendiary claims that pornography “normalizes violence and abuse against women and children,” and debunked pseudoscientific pronouncements about how porn may impact “brain development and functioning” and is “potentially biologically addictive.”

Expressing concern, Democratic Rep. Rui Xu warned of “unintended consequences,” noting that the current slew of age verification bills contains definitions that are “much broader than we actually think” and could lead to censorship of numerous works of art and literature.

Under the bill, the Miami County Republic noted, the attorney general would be empowered to investigate public reports of websites’ noncompliance and could seek civil penalties of $500 to $10,000 for each underage visit. 

“The parent or guardian of a minor who gained access to age-restricted websites would be allowed to file a lawsuit and seek damages of $50,000 or more,” the paper reported.

During the debate, Democrat Rep. John Carmichael stated, “We in America cherish our First Amendment rights. I’m sure all of us know people who have given their lives in defense of that First Amendment. And the fact that some people find some material harmful to minors that other people find to be a part of a good education should not mean that we erase materials that some parents may disagree with from the internet, or for that matter school curriculum.”

Main Image: Kansas Rep. Susan Humphries

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