DENVER - Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) has a mission: Preventing adults from showing material "harmful to minors" to minors ... even though there are no peer-reviewed studies concluding that (most) material deemed "harmful to minors" actually harms minors.
When Harvey (pictured) was still in the Colorado House, a similar bill he proposed nearly died, but thanks to Harvey's new position in the Senate, the bill ( SB 08-125) might just pass ... if it weren't for those darned Democrats; notably, Sen. Brandon Shaffer, who had most of the language of Harvey's bill struck and replaced with wording that, rather than charging offenders with a misdemeanor, made it instead a felony to give kids material labeled "obscene as to minors" if the intent of giving the material was to groom them for sexual molestation.
Undaunted, Harvey's fellow Republicans added even more language to the bill, resurrecting some of Harvey's original text and mixing it with Shaffer's revised version - but the revisions also added about $125,000 to the cost of enforcing the measure, and considering the current economic slowdown and Colorado's budgetary problems, that's made just about everyone wary of voting for the measure.
The situation has led to a series of charges and countercharges, with the Republicans claiming that Democrats are using the enforcement price-tag as an excuse to allow Coloradoans to continue selling porn to minors (which, of course, they generally haven't been, and as the Rocky Mountain News has pointed out , that's already illegal), while the Dems have argued that the whole bill should be scrapped and perhaps reintroduced next year.
The News also pointed out a few more objections to the bill. For one thing, it puts the onus of deciding what material is "obscene for" or "harmful to" minors in the hands of "a reasonable adult person," but "[s]ince reasonable people can disagree on these subjective matters, obtaining convictions under such laws is very difficult and renders them generally ineffective."
The News also pointed out that since even displaying such material deemed "harmful to minors" is a crime under the bill, it would "make the most prudish bookstore owner's life a litigious nightmare." The News noted that such bookstores likely would carry the then-current issue of Psychology Today, whose cover featured a nude couple, and which issue contained a number of articles grouped under the heading "The Big Turn-On" - all of which might lead "a reasonable adult person" to conclude that the prestigious journal was harmful to minors.
Also problematic for supporters of the bill has to be the affirmative defenses, which allow the minor's parents, legal guardians or teachers to give or show the material to the kid - and in fact anyone else to do so as well, if the parents give permission. Kids with good-looking phony IDs are also a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
All in all, it appears as if Senate Bill 08-125 is dead in the water ... but the very public fight between its supporters and detractors has at least been amusing for Coloradoans.