By Hailey Standridge
This semester, I have been working on a project for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (“NCOSE”) that analyzes the constitutionality of statutes that require age verification restrictions for all websites that distribute, stream, or allow access to pornographic material. Various states have already enacted legislation restricting pornographic websites to verified adult users. However, these statutes have received pushback from judges, the Free Speech Coalition, practicing attorneys, and professors.
The main issue NCOSE and the few states at the forefront of protecting minors from harmful sexually explicit content is whether age verification bills are constitutional. The argument against these age verification statutes is that they are an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Those in support of these restrictions believe that requiring a simple age verification procedure such as facial recognition or scanning a form of government identification passes as the least restrictive means to promote the substantial government interest in protecting minors from the long-term adverse mental and physical health effects of pornography and other sexual content.
I have been able to explore the inner workings of free speech, the Constitution, and politics as I research and analyze this hot-button issue before many states have even confronted the topic. By comparing case law and the current statutes passed by a few states, such as Virginia and Utah, I have been able to learn about the complicated frameworks applied to free speech claims under our Constitution; I have developed a more profound passion for fighting to protect our nation’s youth and an appreciation for the endless work that NCOSE does to protect our citizens from the heinous effects of sexual exploitation.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.