UPDATED: FSC Files Suit in Louisiana Against Age-Verification Law

UPDATE (2:23 p.m. 6.21.23): The FSC filed a motion Tuesday morning with the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking preliminary injuctive relief from the state's age-verification law pending resolution of its case.

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) announced Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit in Louisiana challenging the law that went into effect there January 1 of this year requiring age-verification to access online adult content.

FSC's announcement of this latest filing follows:

Free Speech Coalition, the advocacy organization for the adult industry, has filed a legal challenge in Louisiana over the state’s unconstitutional age-verification law. The Louisiana law gives the state the power to fine sites with adult content up to $5,000 per day, a direct violation of the First Amendment. FSC filed a similar suit against the state of Utah in May.

Joining Free Speech Coalition in filing the challenge are Elizabeth Hanson, a military veteran and spouse of an active-duty Coast Guard member residing in Slidell; Andrea Barrica, founder of the sex education site O.school; journalist, educator, and content creator Charyn “Ryn” Pfeuffer; and fan platform JustFor.Fans. The parties are represented by Jeffrey Sandman of Webb Daniel Friedlander LLP and D. Gill Sperlein of the Law Office of D. Gill Sperlein.

“These laws give the state the power to harass and censor legal businesses,” says Alison Boden, Executive Director of Free Speech Coalition. “We, of course, support keeping minors from accessing adult content, but allowing the state to suppress certain speech by requiring invasive and burdensome systems that consumers refuse to engage with is simply state censorship.”

Seven states have passed laws requiring sites with substantial amounts of “material harmful to minors” to check users’ government ID or other age and identity verification information in order to access content. But consumers have been reluctant to do so, with more than 90% of users abandoning sites that comply with such laws. 

Last year, Louisiana passed a law allowing for a private right of action against adult sites without such age-verification for consumers, and other states followed suit. In June, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a new law giving the government the power to fine sites directly — as much as $1M per year. 

“The First Amendment protects our right to freely access legal content and ideas without government interference,” says Jeff Sandman, a New Orleans-based counsel for the Free Speech Coalition. “We’re fighting not only for adult businesses but for the right of legal adults to use the internet without government surveillance. Showing your ID in a checkout lane is simply not the same as submitting it to a government database.”

“For decades, our industry has voluntarily and enthusiastically worked with filters that allow parents and others to easily block adult sites,” says Boden. “Those who wish to can do so easily, and the Supreme Court has ruled that this is preferable to government-mandated censorship. We are again asking the courts to reject these unreasonable and dangerous restrictions on a free internet.”

The Louisiana complaint can be found here.