Judge Dismisses FSC Age Verification Case in Utah, Org to Appeal

SALT LAKE CITY—A federal judge in Utah this morning granted the state's motion to dismiss the case brought by adult industry advocacy group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) challenging the recently-enacted law there requiring age verification for those who visit adult websites. FSC subsequently announced that it plans to appeal the decision.

"The court ruled that state officials could not be sued by the Plaintiffs, who claimed they do not have the necessary power to enforce the age-verification mandate. FSC plans to contest that finding," the organization said in the announcement of its appeal. "Utah’s newly enacted verification law requires sites to verify identity through a non-existent state digital ID, or to partner with data brokers to otherwise verify age and identity of all visitors. Consumers, tech groups and the adult industry have all raised serious privacy concerns about the legislation."

“Utah is attempting to duck responsibility for a dangerous law passed by its own legislature, but make no mistake—the law is unconstitutional," FSC executive director Alison Boden said. "As we’ve seen with Don’t Say Gay, the Texas Heartbeat Act and other attacks on free speech, states are attempting to do an end-run around the First Amendment by outsourcing censorship to citizens. It’s a new mechanism, but a deeply flawed one. Government attempts to chill speech, no matter the method, are prohibited by the Constitution and decades of legal precedent.

“Fighting this as a pre-enforcement challenge—rather than waiting for a case to be brought against one of FSC’s members—was always going to be an uphill battle. But, given the chilling effect of this law, it’s a necessary one. While Utah was able to temporarily slow FSC’s challenge, we are encouraged by the Court’s acknowledgement of the constitutional concerns raised by the law, and look forward to arguing our case at the appellate level.

“As the Supreme Court has established, the government can not, and should not, wall off the internet when less restrictive options for protecting minors exist.”

FSC has also filed suit in Louisiana over that state’s age-verification law. Unlike Utah, Louisiana’s Attorney General is directly involved with enforcement of the law, which allows the state to bring civil suits against sites, largely barring concerns raised in the Utah case.