New bill would censor all LGBTQ+ websites for as “harmful” to minors

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New bill would censor all LGBTQ+ websites for as “harmful” to minors

Introduction to the Bill’s Intent and Scope

A recent legislative proposal in Kansas is causing alarm within the LGBTQ+ community and among its allies. The bill, presented as a measure to safeguard minors on the internet, mandates age verification for websites where over a quarter of the content is classified as “harmful to minors.” Regrettably, the bill includes homosexuality in its definition of harmful content, aligning it with overtly sexual acts. This classification has sparked a debate over whether non-explicit LGBTQ+ content, like books, chat rooms, or even images of same-sex couples holding hands, could be subject to censorship.

Lawmaker and Legal Expert Reactions

Democratic State Representative Rui Xu criticized the bill for its vague language and potential overreach. He expressed concern over whether the legislation could extend to seemingly innocuous listings, such as those ranking the “top 10 most gay-friendly cities.” Xu argued that the bill could have been uncontroversial had it aimed merely to update existing laws rather than expanding them to include homosexuality as harmful.

The implications of this bill have been contested by experts. Some argue that even a simple photo of a same-sex couple could be misconstrued as explicit under the new law, while others, like D.C. Hiegert, an LGBTQ+ Fellow at the ACLU of Kansas, insist that the bill does not intend to ban all LGBTQ+ content and that such a ban would be unconstitutional. However, Lawrence attorney Max Kautsch warns that the inclusion of homosexuality under the term ‘sexual conduct’ could broaden the bill’s impact, making it a significant threat to free expression.

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Comparisons and Broader Legislative Trends

This Kansas bill is not isolated in its potential effects on LGBTQ+ online spaces. Similar concerns have been raised about the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which also aims to shield minors from harmful online environments but could be used to restrict access to queer content. Sarah Philips, a digital rights organizer, highlighted in a Teen Vogue op-ed how state attorneys general could use KOSA to challenge content they deem harmful, including information on gender-affirming care.

Continued Advocacy and Future Outlook

Despite differing opinions on the immediate threat posed by the Kansas bill, the broader trend of increased attempts to censor LGBTQ+ content is undeniable. Advocates like Hiegert remain vigilant, hoping that the controversy stirred by this bill will prompt legislators to reconsider the legal framing of LGBTQ+ issues. The outcome of these legislative efforts remains uncertain, with the community looking towards future sessions for clearer resolutions.

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