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US Supreme Court to review Texas age verification law for porn sites

US Supreme Court to review Texas age verification law for porn sites

US Supreme Court to review Texas age verification law for porn sites

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

The justices will review an appeals ruling that allowed age verification to go into effect. Arguments in the legal battle between the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, and Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who signed House Bill 1181 into law, will take place in the fall.

In April, the high court rejected an emergency appeal seeking to suspend age verification while the legal fight continues.

Similar age verification laws have been passed in other states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.

The law, passed in 2023, requires pornography sites to establish users’ ages with a government-issued ID or a reasonable alternative. The bill by state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, had broad bipartisan support and created a $10,000-per-day fine for violations.

Last year, a federal judge blocked the law’s age verification requirement and health warnings, finding they likely violated the Constitution.

In March, a divided panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the age verification ruling while upholding the health warnings, saying the government could not force adult sites to post statements they disagreed with.

The health warnings, which have been questioned by the industry, say pornography is addictive, harms mental development and increases demand for prostitution, child exploitation and child sexual abuse images.

The appeals court said HB 1181 does not violate the First Amendment, adding that the state’s stricter age verification requirement falls within the state’s “legitimate interest in preventing minors from accessing pornography,” Judge Jerry Smith wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Patrick Higginbotham said the law “violates the protected sexual expression of adults” and has a “chilling effect” on free speech by opening the door for Texas to record and track visitors to pornographic sites through age verification requirements.

The Associated Press and staff writer Philip Jankowski contributed to this report.