AUSTIN (KXAN) — A lawsuit filed Aug. 4 asks a federal court to block Texas Interim Attorney General Angela Colmenero from enforcing a new law that would require users of adult websites to send their government-issued identification to those websites.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a trade association that represents “hundreds of businesses and individuals involved in the production, distribution, sale, and presentation of constitutionally-protected adult content,” filed the lawsuit alongside 16 companies and one anonymous adult performer.

“Many of FSC’s members are individual adult performers gravely concerned about the consequences of the Act, but who fear for their safety should they come forward publicly to challenge the Act in court,” FSC’s attorneys write in the lawsuit.

Some of the companies named in the lawsuit include the operators of adult entertainment websites Brazzers, Pornhub and XVideos.

Colmenero has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit. She did file for an extension to the court’s Monday response deadline, asking the court for an extra week to prepare.

That filing does not state any reason why the Texas Office of the Attorney General would require an extension.

“Least effective and most restrictive”

The new law, House Bill 1181, goes into effect Sept. 1. When it does, it will require any commercial entity providing adult content to utilize what the law says are “reasonable age verification methods.”

The law does not apply to social media websites or search engines.

The websites will be required to ask their users to transmit one of the following:

  • digital identification;
  • government-issued identification; or,
  • public or private transactional data (mortgage, pay stub, etc.).

“Despite impinging on the rights of adults to access protected speech, [the law] fails strict scrutiny by employing the least effective and yet also the most restrictive means of accomplishing Texas’s stated purpose of allegedly protecting minors,” the lawsuit states.

The FSC’s attorneys also list out several means by which a minor could bypass the requirement. They also claim that content filtering on devices by parents and guardians of minors is more effective solution.

“But such far more effective and far less restrictive means don’t really matter to Texas, whose true aim is not to protect minors but to squelch constitutionally protected free speech that the State disfavors,” the lawsuit states.

The law requires health notices

The law also requires adult websites to display three warning notices to users that FSC claims to be “lengthy, controversial, and factually false.”

All of the notices start with “TEXAS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES WARNING.” However, the lawsuit claims that the Texas Department of Health and Human Services never approved such notices.

Those warnings claim the following:

  • “Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses, and weakens brain function.”
  • “Exposure to this content is associated with low self-esteem and body image, eating disorders, impaired brain development, and other emotional and mental illnesses.”
  • Pornography increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation, and child pornography.

“The Act’s “health warning” requirement is a classic example of the State mandating an orthodox viewpoint on a controversial issue,” the lawsuit states. “Texas could easily spread its ideological, anti-pornography message through public service announcements and the like without foisting its viewpoint upon others through mandated statements that are a mix of falsehoods, discredited pseudo-science, and baseless accusations.”

In addition to the notices, the law also requires adult websites to display the phone number for the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Similarly to the notices, the lawsuit states “there is no indication that anyone calling
this helpline looking for information about any effects of pornography will receive it there.”

KXAN called the hotline in an attempt to verify that claim. When selecting Texas, the call was forwarded to Texas 2-1-1, where a staff member provided phone numbers for third-party mental health service providers. The option to speak with a national representative yielded the same results.