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House panel passes indecency law change

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Making law on indecent material and what is appropriate for minors to view is always a touchy subject. But a House committee Thursday finally approved a bill wanted by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his anti-pornography officer, Paula Houston.

Houston says Utah's current statute regulating indecent material presented to minors is overly broad and must be tightened up to make it constitutional and hold up in court.

"Prosecutors want to win," Shurtleff told the committee. "It costs money and time. (The Legislature) clearly takes seriously displays of indecent material (to minors) since you have made it a Class A misdemeanor with a mandatory $500 fine and jail time."

Houston wrote the new language for the law, sponsored by Rep. Peggy Wallace, R-West Jordan. In describing what is indecent for minors to view, the new language takes into account material that "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value," (known as the SLAPS test).

In various hearings the Utah Eagle Forum representatives worried that Houston's actions could actually make it easier for youth to view nudity and/or immoral behavior — definitions outlawed in the current statute.