Utah Committee Passes Revived Games-as-Porn Bill Despite Constitutional Concerns

It’s a bill that failed to clear the Utah legislature earlier this year. 

It’s a bill that Utah’s Attorney General has said will likely fail if challenged in court.

It’s a bill that is quite similar to the Jack Thompson-drafted Louisiana video game bill, currently blocked by a federal judge.

Despite these concerns, a committee of the Utah legislature yesterday approved a bill designed to prevent minors from accessing violent video games. As reported by the Deseret News, passage by the Judiciary Interim Committee allows the measure to be placed on the 2007 legislative calendar.

The bill, which would define violent games as "harmful to minors" in the same manner as pornography, was sponsored earlier this year by lame duck Republican David Hogue. The bill passed the Utah House overwhelmingly in February but was never considered by the State Senate. Seemingly a dead issue, the legislation was revived recently by Rep. Scott Wyatt (R).

Original sponsor Hogue said yesterday:

Somewhere we have to stand up as citizens and parents and legislators and say, ‘That’s enough.’ I very seriously think that we need to push this forward and find if we’re going to have a challenge or not and have the attorney general fight those battles."

Rep. Wyatt believes the bill could survive a constitutional challenge, but would withdraw it if appeared likely to fail in court. A game industry observer who was present at the hearing told GamePolitics that Wyatt could well be waiting on a final decision regarding the Louisiana law, currently blocked by preliminary injunction. Arguments in that case are scheduled to resume on November 29th.

Sen. Scott McCoy (D) expressed concern about wasting tax dollars on a court battle:

I certainly applaud the efforts and the sentiment to protect our kids, I think that is absolutely valid and an honorable goal. But I think it is incumbent on us to at least acknowledge that there are some high legal hurdles that stand in our way. … Is this the way that we want to spend taxpayers’ money?     

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