Tennessee Lawmaker Proposes State Porn Tax

Feb 27, 2012 7:30 AM PST

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee lawmaker has proposed a 25 percent tax on adult businesses and products that he believes could increase state revenue by $55 million.

According to local News Channel 5, Rutherford County Republican Representative Joe Carr believes the “sin” tax could help all Tennesseans by tapping the state’s $222 million annual porn business.

"If we can't outlaw it, and the Supreme Court says we cannot, then what we'll do is put a 25 percent tax on adult material, hard core pornography," Carr said.

The lawmaker said it’s not just about the money, but more about the harm porn is doing to local marriages.

Tennessee reportedly has one of the highest divorce rates and Carr hopes his proposal will change that by making porn tougher to buy.

Carr said the new tax could lower or eliminate the sales tax on food.

The tax would also be levied on escort services and cabarets. Carr said the law would affect "Any types of items where you're required to be 18 years of age, or older to either go into those establishments, or buy those materials."

But some Constitutional experts think the proposed bill probably violates the First Amendment. States have a legal right to tax so-called vices like liquor and tobacco but they’re commercial products and don’t have any First Amendment aspects attached to them as porn does.

"To tax something based on its First Amendment content would clearly be unconstitutional in my view," said attorney David Raybin.

The lawyer believes that if the proposed bill became law, it would be immediately challenged in court.

But Carr thinks otherwise and feels it will receive bi-partisan support in the legislature with some revisions.

"Liberal democrats are always looking for places to increase revenue. Conservative republicans are always looking for things that can support family values," Carr said.

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