Republican Representative Laurie Schlegel, although initially hesitant about entering politics, has gained recognition as one of the most effective legislators in Louisiana, if not the entire nation, for her role in passing a law aimed at protecting children from exposure to explicit content. Schlegel’s decision to run for office was motivated by the sudden vacancy of a House position in Louisiana’s 82nd District in early 2021.
As a mother, counselor, and active member of her community, Schlegel was deeply concerned about the impact of unrestricted access to explicit material on children. She recognized that children’s exposure to hardcore pornography had reached alarming levels due to the ubiquity of internet-connected devices, leading to harmful consequences for their mental and sexual development.
Schlegel, a licensed counselor and certified sex addiction therapist, was well-acquainted with the harm caused by pornography. She had seen clients struggle with porn addiction and compulsive sexual behavior, often stemming from prolonged exposure to explicit content.
Recognizing the need for action, Schlegel sought to educate her fellow legislators on the harms of porn by bringing in renowned sociologist Dr. Gail Dines to provide a webinar. With bipartisan support and nearly 50 co-sponsors, Schlegel introduced House Bill 142, requiring websites with explicit material to verify users’ age before granting access to the full site.
The bill’s success led to an 80% drop in traffic on porn websites in Louisiana after it went into effect. Schlegel then championed another bill, HB-77, empowering the state’s attorney general to investigate and fine non-compliant websites.
Despite facing criticism from the porn industry, Schlegel remained steadfast in her mission to protect children and defended her legislation as a means to safeguard children’s well-being without infringing on adults’ First Amendment rights.
Schlegel’s efforts did not go unnoticed, as other states began adopting her model for protecting children from the adverse effects of online pornography. While legal challenges and political hurdles are expected, Schlegel views the bipartisan support for this issue as a positive sign, indicating a growing national discussion on the protection of children online.