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Utah Losing Its 'Porn Czar' to Budget Cuts

Controversial official served 2 years in what was believed to be the first job of its kind.

January 16, 2003|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Budget troubles have forced Utah to eliminate its controversial "porn czar," whose job was to give legal help to local governments and citizens worried about smut.

Paula Houston, whose formal title was obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman, will lose her job April 1 in one of many expected reductions as the state works to close a $117-million budget hole. Houston worked in the Utah attorney general's office.

"I'm going to have to look around and see what my options are," Houston said, noting that she hoped to stay with the attorney general's office in another position.

Houston was believed to be the nation's first state official whose job was solely to fight pornography.

Houston fielded calls daily about how parents and businesses could fight unsolicited e-mail promoting pornography, Internet pornography and unsavory shops in their communities.

During her two years in office, she prosecuted three cases and has 15 others moving through the courts, she said.

She has helped draft legislation, including a measure that clarified Utah's indecent public display law, which had been so vague that it could have included works of art, she said.

Her office had an annual budget of $150,000, including her salary and that of clerical help, Houston said.

Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff said his office had to make $750,000 in cuts from its budget for this year.

"This is the hardest cut, because I really am committed to the problem of pornography," he said."

Critics wondered how Houston, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could fairly address pornography, which the denomination views as an addiction akin to drugs.

Though the American Civil Liberties Union expressed those concerns when Houston was appointed, it didn't take a stance against Houston during her tenure. Houston helped clarify some legislation regarding indecency, said Dani Eyer, executive director of the ACLU's Utah affiliate.

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