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Simulated sexual conduct bill too arbitrary, overreaching

A new bill under consideration by the Florida House of Representatives will attempt to address a legal loophole in the state’s obscenity laws, though it seems it will create more problems than it solves.

According to MyFloridaHouse.gov, House Bill 385 “revises the definition of the term ‘sexual conduct’ for purposes of provisions relating to obscenity to include certain forms of simulated conduct.”

In laymen’s terms, the bill outlaws any simulated actions that would be considered sexual battery if physical. Someone could face penalty if they simulated the touching or exposing of sexual parts of the body.

Sponsored by State Rep. James Grant (R) Tampa, the bill is intended to address situations like the one allegedly involving a school principal out of Lakeland who pasted pictures of students’ heads on pornographic images – an act that was later found to be legal, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

It’s clear that legislation should be considered to address this type of scenario, but not something so vague, with potentially unforeseen consequences.

A bill that outlaws the pasting of minors’ images to pornographic videos or pictures could instead simply be added to existing laws on child pornography.

Enforcement of such a law against “simulated” sexual acts could vary widely and be open to multiple interpretations.

At worst, many feel that it could outlaw some sexualized dance moves, performances or other harmless expressions.

Overambitious law enforcement agencies could use the loosest interpretation possible to raise the number of arrests, or the unethical among them could try to use the vague law to settle personal scores or vendettas.

While it’s unlikely, as Grant has expressed, that this bill would make provocative dancing or obscene playfulness illegal, it is possible that the bill could cause a snowball effect into such acts that would be impossible without the measure’s precedent.

The law could open the door to later interpretations that would see this as a precedent to enact hyper-exaggerative laws against obscenity that may threaten basic free speech.

While ambitious proposals like House Bill 385 are a good way for a freshman legislator such as Grant to gain prestige, these bills can become laws that have very real and powerful effects on the lives of everyday people.

To address potential situations where perverts can use legal loopholes to avoid facing the consequences they deserve, laws should be made.

However, they must be extremely specific in what they target to avoid unforeseen and undesired consequences.