Local ACLU Chapter Warns Ohio Lawmakers About AV Legislation

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has voiced its concerns to Ohio lawmakers about the potential constitutional harms of age verification legislation specifically targeting adult entertainment websites. In a letter to the sponsors of Senate Bill (SB) 212, the chapter’s chief lobbyist, Gary Daniels, said this legislation leads to the “chilling of speech.”

Ohio state Sens. Stephanie Kunze, a Republican, and William P. DeMora, a Democrat, introduced SB 212 in January as a more palatable age verification bill to prevent minors from viewing porn.

The Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee held a debate hearing on SB 212 on June 11 to consider feedback from a wide range of direct and indirect stakeholders, including regional civil society groups like the ACLU of Ohio.

“Members of this committee, there are other reasons to oppose SB 212,” Daniels argued. “But, my intention, for now, is to raise concerns about the constitutionality of SB 212, how the goals of many proponents can be accomplished without government action, and why SB 212 may ultimately have little impact on minors’ ability to access pornography and other content.”

Daniels echoes the position of the ACLU’s national affiliate. Activist counsel for the national ACLU is representing adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition and a class of adult industry stakeholders in a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging an age verification law adopted in Republican-controlled Texas.

SB 212 is still on the docket before the state legislature. It is worth noting, though, that it is less harmful than a competing measure in the state House.

AVN previously reported on House Bill (HB) 295, introduced by Republican state Rep. Steve Demetriou. Unlike SB 212, HB 295 levies criminal penalties for violators and is widely supported by far-right conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation.

Heritage is the focal point of a group called Project 2025 that has voiced support for outlawing pornography and stripping porn’s First Amendment protections.

HB 295 also caused concern for adult industry stakeholders due to a proposed criminal penalty specifically for minors who manage to circumvent an age gate via a fake ID or VPN.

At a May 7 debate hearing on HB 295, Daniels represented the ACLU in voicing opposition, providing Rep. Demetriou and House Criminal Justice Committee members similar warnings. 

“Historically, these laws create conflict between the rights of adults, and often minors, to access constitutionally protected speech and information against the goal of these laws to censor this same material for those under 18,” Daniels said.

Proponents of HB 295 include the Age Verification Providers Association, led by Iain Corby. During a debate hearing on HB 295 on May 21, Corby said that “commercial and legal objectives both drive the need to implement age verification in a way that protects the user’s identity and prevents any possibility of tracking.”