Utah senator, BYU grad discusses importance of protecting youth from pornography

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Utah state Sen. Todd Weiler delivers a lecture at the BYU Law School about legislation against pornography on Jan. 16. (BYU Law School)

Utah Sen. Todd Weiler didn’t plan to make anti-pornography legislation a part of his legacy when he was elected to the Utah Senate in 2012. In fact, at the time, he couldn’t imagine talking about pornography in public.

But when voters approached Weiler asking what he would do in the legislature to protect youth from pornography, Weiler began researching anti-pornography initiatives.

“Pornography has become a social epidemic,” Weiler said. “Pornography is commonly used for grooming, for sexual abuse, for human trafficking and for even kidnapping.”

Weiler discussed his experiences promoting anti-pornography legislation as a guest lecturer at BYU Law’s World of Law lecture series on Jan. 16. Weiler earned a undergraduate business degree from BYU and a Juris Doctor from BYU Law in 1996.

Weiler’s 2016 resolution, S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Health Crisis, declared pornography a public health crisis and sparked national discussion on the topic of anti-pornography legislation.

SCR9 was signed into Utah law March 2016, declaring the Utah government recognizes pornography as increasingly accessible to minors and that it creates sexually toxic environments which lead to risky behaviors and violence.

While SCR9 doesn’t legislate codes against pornography usage, Weiler said he believes the legislation was instrumental in creating awareness about the state’s need to work on educating the public about pornography’s harmful effects.

During his Wednesday address to BYU undergraduate and law students, Weiler spoke about how the increasing accessibility to pornography harms Utah youth.

“In Utah the average age of first exposure to pornography is about 11 years old,” Weiler said, citing SCR9. “We’re in an age right now where a lot of children are learning about sex by seeing women be raped.”

The success of Weiler’s resolution has increased awareness of anti-pornography groups in Utah, and Weiler said he plans to continue sponsoring legislation protecting children.

Weiler said he plans to sponsor numerous bills during the upcoming 2019 Utah Legislative Session with topics ranging from Indigent Defense Act Amendments changing how Utahns would qualify for public defense to Child Abuse Amendments that would define abuse and neglect as chronic if occurring on three occasions.  

“All of my work in the legislature has been geared (toward) protecting children,” Weiler said. “My goal is to get the message out there.”

To learn more about anti-pornography initiatives in Utah, visit the Utah Coalition Against Pornography. To learn more about bills scheduled for hearings during the upcoming 2019 Utah Legislative Session, visit le.utah.gov.

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