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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns castigated the adult entertainment industry in a legislative hearing Friday on a proposed resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis.
Jenny Brown, a member of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography board, said many are scared of the industry because of the "fierce" way it goes after people in court. Brown said it's time for children's rights to be acknowledged and that no one has a right to harm another person.
"We are going to give the pornography industry a run for their money, even if it takes several years to keeping working on it," she said. "We are not going to be afraid to look at the pornography industry right in the eye. It's not going to keep just doing what it wants and think there's not going to be pushback."
Academics, marriage and family therapists, anti-pornography advocates and residents lined up to testify about the ills of exposure to sexually explicit material in a packed Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting. They said it undermines families, damages relationships and leads to risky and aggressive sexual behavior.
The committee unanimously moved SCR9 to the Senate floor for further consideration. No one at the hearing spoke against it.
"We are on fire for this resolution," said Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, adding he received more than a 1,000 emails supporting the resolution.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he's sponsoring the measure to educate people and start a national discussion on the issue. He said a lot of people don't believe pornography is addictive or harmful.
"I believe that the public opinion needs to change on pornography. I believe the resolution is a first step," Weiler said, adding that he hopes to shift the discussion from a moral, religious and First Amendment perspective to a public health issue.
Weiler said he recognizes pornography is legal for adults, but he ultimately wants to make the Internet porn-free unless people opt in to view it.
Bountiful resident Scott Wright told the committee his 34-year pornography addiction cost him a marriage and other relationships. He compared it to drugs like heroin or cocaine.
"What if those drug dealers took that heroin out in the streets and gave it away for free to a lot of people who really wanted it? What would happen? We would have a lot of addicts in this world," he said. "Porn is free. The goal of pornography and the pornography industry is money."
Pamela Atkinson, chairwoman of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, said she has become "absolutely horrified" by the scourge pornography has become in Utah and the nation.
Weiler said his resolution is rooted in the latest scientific studies.
"This isn't just some right-wing idea. This is based on real research and real science," he said.