Economy, Culture & the Family

Oklahoma lawmaker says public-obscenity ban could harm business recruitment

April 12, 2023

Ray Carter

Members of a state House committee have voted to restrict obscene performances in front of children in public. But one opponent said major corporations will not come to Oklahoma if that type of activity is banned.

“We lost out on Volkswagen and Panasonic,” said state Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City. “Volkswagen said they wanted to locate in a place that aligned with their values. Why are we still writing bills that make us unpopular to major corporations that can bring thousands of jobs to this state?”

Senate Bill 1056, as amended in the House, would make it illegal “for a person to engage in an adult performance which contains obscene material” on “public property or in a public place where the adult performance could be viewed by a minor.”

Some opponents have objected that the legislation will restrict public drag performances in which men dress as women.

But state Rep. Kevin West, who authored the bill, said its purpose is simple.

“This is about protecting children,” said West, R-Moore. “I have yet to come across somebody whenever I ask them, ‘Should obscene material be presented to children?” (who) have said, ‘Yes, I think that should be.’”

West noted existing state law includes a three-pronged test to determine if a performance or material is obscene. The performance must be “patently offensive” to the average person applying contemporary community standards, it must appeal to a “prurient” interest in sex, and it must also “lack serious literary, artistic, educational, or scientific purposes or value.”

“It has to violate all three of those,” West said. “I would argue that it’s a pretty high bar.”

SB 1056 passed the House Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee on a 6-1 vote.

A similar bill passed out of a House committee in February, but that measure never received a vote on the House floor before the legislative deadline for action.