Following its passage of a controversial anti-abortion resolution last month, the Riverton City Council took on another social issue at its meeting on Tuesday with the unanimous passage of a statement promoting a “child-appropriate” standard across its boundaries.
The three-page resolution, which is ceremonial in nature and does not change city policy, expresses the council’s desire to “protect children” from sexually explicit or pornographic material and its concern “about the corrosion of childhood due to the proliferation of material placed in public view that has a degrading effect on children.”
“We all were in agreement that this is something we would like to adopt in our community and do what we can to protect those individuals, our youth,” Mayor Trent Staggs told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. “There’s nothing much more important than that in creating good policy.”
Consideration of the resolution came after a presentation earlier this month from the newly crowned Miss Riverton, Bethany Fox, who has chosen to make protecting children from sexually obscene material the focus of her community outreach project.
The 18-year-old Riverton High School graduate had encouraged the council to approve a proposal similar to one Sandy City supported in 2015. Fox told The Tribune on Wednesday that she was pleased to see the resolution receive unanimous consent.
“If you’re not standing up and saying that something is wrong, you’re just going along with it and saying it’s OK,” she said. “That’s why it’s really important for me and I’m really excited the city passed this resolution because that’s my whole city getting behind this idea that protecting children from pornography is important and it is what we believe in and stand for.”
Passage of the resolution also follows an ongoing statewide conversation about pornography more generally. In 2017, the Legislature and governor declared pornography a public health crisis, citing research they said showed porn use is increasing, lowers self worth, leads to unhealthy views of sex and relationships, increases the odds of infidelity and is a major cause of divorce.
Staggs said the council’s move “is part of that conversation of what can we do as policy makers to try to address something that has proven to be a pretty significant issue and has a lot of ramifications to families and to the community at large.”
The resolution — which makes heavy use of Utah code and provides the state’s definitions of “nudity,” “sexual conduct” and “sexual excitement” — promotes a community standard that “reflects and encourages a wholesome environment for children and families” and “strongly encourages” all businesses, schools and public institutions within the city to adopt child-appropriate standards.
It also encourages the Legislature to evaluate a portion of the Utah Criminal Code in an effort to provide local governments “practical tools” to uphold the standards outlined within the resolution.
“It is not Riverton City's purpose to prescribe socially appropriate values or to suggest any evolution of the values held by Riverton City residents and parents, but instead to reflect the current values of the majority of Riverton City residents and parents, so that they and their children may benefit from appropriate standards, and feel informed,” the resolution states.
Some had criticized the council’s anti-abortion resolution — which declared the city’s support for unborn humans and opposition to lessening existing restrictions on abortion — as outside municipal purview. This resolution, however, explicitly states that the city has the right to regulate materials harmful to minors “without limitation” through ordinances related to zoning, licensing, public nuisances and even the use of blinder racks.
Staggs said there are not plans to make changes to city ordinances in an effort to crack down on pornography or sexually explicit materials within the city. He said he’s not aware of any adult bookstores or drive-in movies within city boundaries.