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NC Senate Unanimously Approves Upping Penalties for Disseminating Obscenities Around Minors

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by Lynn Bonner, NC Newsline
May 2, 2023

The state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would increase the penalty disseminating obscenity while knowingly in the presence of someone younger than 18.

The bill had been controversial, with some Democratic legislators concerned that it would apply to school materials or libraries, or that adolescents would face charges for showing pornographic material to their friends. 

Apparently, some of those concerns were allayed by Republican assurances that the bill does not expand the definition of obscenity, but simply increases the penalty for an offense that is already illegal. 

No one wants to expose children to material they’re not ready for, said Sen. Lisa Grafstein, a Wake County Democrat.

Grafstein proposed an amendment intended to hinder children’s access to online pornography by requiring any website that knowingly publishes pornographic material to ensure minors couldn’t see it. Websites where one-third of the material published is pornographic would have been covered. 

Under the amendment, the state would have levied a privilege tax on operators, with the funds going to the state Department of Health and Human Services to fund youth mental health programs. 

Republicans asked for a day to consider the amendment, but Grafstein wanted a vote Monday night. She asked that if Republican weren’t prepared to vote on the amendment that they not table it so it could be brought back as a separate bill. 

Republicans voted to table the amendment, an action that kills debate.

The Senate approved the bill unchanged 48-0 and sent it to the House for consideration. 

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