FSC Pleads Case Against Utah's AV Law at Tenth Circuit

DENVER—Counsel representing adult industry trade group Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and a number of adult industry firms argued before a panel at the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday that an age verification law in Utah, Senate Bill 287, is unconstitutional and their lawsuit should be reinstated. 

A federal district judge threw out the initial case arguing that the adult entertainment industry's attempt to block Utah's age verification law improperly targeted two state officials, reports Bloomberg Law.

The appellants seek an overturn of the lower district court's ruling dismissing their lawsuit. Counsel for Utah says that, based on how it is drafted, officials don't have the legal power to enforce the age verification law.

Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler and Rep. Susan Pulsipher, both prominent anti-pornography activists and members of the LDS Church, crafted the language of the bill to be structured as a so-called "bounty law." 

In a report last summer, Eric Goldman, a law professor at the School of Law at Santa Clara University, told AVN, “Bounty programs are an insidious form of lawmaking.” Goldman went on to say that these types of laws “make it harder for the regulated entities to challenge the law, even if the law is unconstitutional."

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, told the plaintiffs that they had no grounds to sue the state of Utah because it isn’t the role of the government to enforce the age verification statute, but rather that of private citizens.

Judge Stewart dismissed the Free Speech Coalition’s suit based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding a controversial law implemented in 2021 by religious conservatives and anti-abortion elected lawmakers in the state of Texas: Senate Bill 8.

Senate Bill 8, the abortion-banning law also known as the "Texas Heartbeat Act," prohibits Texas officials from enforcing it but authorizes private individuals and entities to do so by suing someone who performs, aids or abets an abortion procedure after the six-week limit built into the statute.

Critics of Senate Bill 8 have characterized it as the “abortion bounty law” that grants private citizens—such as anti-abortion activists—an inward-looking extrajudicial deputization to abuse the statute for political and personal gain.