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Arizona Republicans want to tax porn to pay for Trump’s border wall

The bill was proposed by a homophobic ideologue and self-described porn addict.

Arizona State Capitol Building at sunrise. Credit: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images
Arizona State Capitol Building at sunrise. Credit: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images

A dwindling number of conservatives remain supportive of President Donald Trump’s vanity wall along the country’s southern border, but Republicans in Arizona, which shares its entire border with Mexico, are particularly enthusiastic about the prospect.

And with the prospects of the wall being paid for by the federal government looking dim, lawmakers in the state have come up with an interesting workaround.

State Rep. Gail Griffin (R) introduced a bill last week that seeks to raise the $5.7 billion Trump is requesting for his wall by compelling residents to fork over $20 of their own money to the state coffers. How? By blocking porn sites on new computers and smartphones unless residents pony up.

According to the Arizona Mirror, House Bill 2444 would require new internet-connected devices sold in the state to be outfitted with software that blocks access to porn sites unless the buyer pays a $20 fee to the state, which would be directed to the John McCain Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Fund. Those funds would be used in part to pay for a border wall.

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There are a few serious problems with that plan. First, the bill is clearly unconstitutional. “The notion that you have to jump through some hoops as an adult to access free information on the internet violates the First Amendment,” said Randall Marshall, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama. Lawmakers there tried to pass a version of the bill in 2017. “This is censorship, plain and simple.”

Second, Arizona’s buying power falls just a bit short of the $5.7 billion asking price for Trump’s wall. If every man, woman, and child in Arizona paid a $20 porn tax, the state would still fall $5,559,680,000 short of the total cost of the wall.

Third, enforcement of the law would be a logistical nightmare. The text of the bill puts the onus on “distributors” of these devices, but it would likely require the cooperation of manufacturers as well. And there is no way for the state to compel, say, Apple — a California-based company — to comply.

Last but not least, the bill is the workings of a homophobic ideologue and self-described porn addict.

The legislation is similar to other bills — yes, there have been other bills — that were introduced in a handful of other states in recent years. Many of them, including this latest effort in Arizona, can be traced to Chris Sevier, a man in his 40s who once sued Apple for failing to cure his porn addiction.

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Sevier has managed to float at least a dozen of these bills in states across the country, almost always under the guise of human trafficking prevention. Arizona’s bill is in fact called the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.

But this is the first time one of Sevier’s bills has been tied, albeit loosely, to border security and Trump’s proposed wall. Unfortunately for anti-immigration and anti-porn activists — many of whom have distanced themselves from Sevier — these bills have a poor track record in state legislatures.

Meanwhile, the desperate search for wall funding continues among Trump’s staunch supporters. A crowd-funding effort launched shortly before the new year stalled after barely $20 million was raised, and GoFundMe quickly pulled the plug on the whole endeavor soon thereafter.