Utah's arch conservatives are again attempting to wag the Utah Legislature's dog.
This time they oppose legislation sought by Utah's obscenity and pornography complaint ombudsman Paula Houston, who seeks to codify recent Supreme Court rulings into state law. She wants the changes as practical measures, to strengthen the law against legal attacks.
But some critics don't like the proposed legislation, HB236, which would rework the state's obscenity law to include exceptions for literary, artistic, political and scientific works. Some opponents go so far as to question, "Do we care what the Supreme Court says?"
As a matter of public policy, yes, Utahns should care what the Supreme Court says.
If Utah doesn't amend its statutes to codify new Supreme Court rulings, its law could be rendered useless. Prosecutors would be reluctant to bring charges under the obscenity law because of the great likelihood the courts would find the law unconstitutional.
More importantly, Utahns are a people of laws. One can personally disagree with the Supreme Court's rulings, but they must respect that the high court's interpretations are the prevailing legal standard. Leaving state law as it is would only invite an expensive, protracted constitutional battle.
Perhaps what is most troubling about this issue is that arch conservatives, the very people who encouraged legislation to create the porn czar position in the first place, are attempting to interfere with Houston's responsibilities. Worse yet, some legislators are coming along for the ride.
It is true that the far right in Utah has become better organized and in some respects, more powerful in recent years. But legislators must surely recognize that while these wheels squeak loudly, they do not speak for mainstream Utahns, the silent majority in this state.
When Utah's budget is so tight that legislators are contemplating dipping into the Rainy Day fund, they had better think long and hard about doing the far right's bidding in this case. Utah can ill afford to engage in a quixotic legal battle.
Lawmakers ought to pass laws that best serve Utah's obscenity and pornography complaint ombudsman, as well as prosecutors, who need a constitutional tool with which to help protect, in particular, young Utahns. HB236 is a step in that direction.