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U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to Texas’ age verification requirement for porn sites

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Washington, D.C.
Eli Hartman
/
The Texas Tribune
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an attempt by the adult entertainment industry to overturn a Texas law that requires pornographic websites to verify the age of their users.

The court will hear the arguments from the Free Speech Coalition, an association of adult entertainment industries and this state during its next term, which begins in the fall.

House Bill 1181 was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott into law last year and requires users to upload a photo of a government ID to access a pornographic website. The state law carries fines of up to $10,000 per violation by a site, which could be raised to $250,000 per violation that involves a minor.

It also requires these sites to display a health warning that claims porn impacts human brain development, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that part of the law is unconstitutionally compelled speech in March.

After that 5th Circuit ruling, the adult site Pornhub, one of the most popular websites in the world, decided to block access to users in Texas to comply with the age verification law. When users tried to open the website, it displayed this message on its site: “As you may know, your elected officials in Texas require us to verify your age before allowing you to access our website. Not only does this impinge on the rights of adults to access protected speech, it fails strict scrutiny by employing the least effective and yet also most restrictive means of accomplishing Texas’s stated purpose of allegedly protecting minors.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that federal legislation aiming to prevent the distribution of obscene material to minors was unconstitutional restrictions of free speech in the past.

Similar age verification laws have been passed in several states.

Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio

Juan Salinas II | The Texas Tribune