Idaho lawmakers declare pornography a public health risk

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A group of Idaho lawmakers on Friday approved a proposal declaring pornography a public health risk.

“Pornography has and does have adverse impacts on all members of society. It leads to the abuse men, women and children, destroys marriages and has impacts on young and old,” said Rep. Lance Clow, a Republican from Twin Falls who is backing the resolution. “Families are being torn apart by this epidemic.”

The resolution, sent to the House floor for debate by the House State Affairs Committee, does not call for a ban but rather is a symbolic gesture that urges state agencies and local officials to recognize the need for education, research and possible policy changes to protect Idahoans — particularly teenagers — from pornography.

In 2008, the Idaho Legislature sent a similar non-binding message to Congress, asking that they take action to prevent children and employees from accessing pornography.

Defenders of pornography contend that critics are pushing hyperbole and that sexually-explicit materials can be a safe outlet for some.

After approving the resolution, however, that same panel failed to pass a separate measure requiring public libraries in Idaho to install blockers on their wireless networks to prevent people from viewing obscene content in libraries.

Supporters said the measure would have a minimum financial impact on libraries. Yet librarians who testified criticized the proposal as a solution in search of a problem and would financially cripple the state’s rural libraries.

Currently, Idaho law requires libraries to “have in place a policy of internet safety” if they offer public online services. That code was written in 2011, but Clow says the law needs to be updated due to the widespread use of wireless networks used by people on their own personal computers, tablets and internet-accessible phones.

Clow, who is up for re-election in May, says he decided to push the issue during this legislative session after a constituent approached him — but declined to tell the committee which library the event took place at or who was effected.

“With all due respect, it seems to me like an overreach to jump from one complaint from an undisclosed library that did not involve viewing of pornography to a statewide mandate,” said Ann Joslin, state librarian for the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

Others, like Cindy Erickson who oversees the library in the small community of Soda Springs, argued that library directors are already enforcing the law and that state lawmakers should trust local officials rather than hand down an unfunded mandate.

“We have to listen to libraries,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, a Republican from Dalton Gardens. “To pretend their concerns are not important in consideration is a mistake. And the claim that if I vote no on this that I’m all for pornography, that’s just not the case, the question is where does it end.”

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