SALT LAKE CITY — A new bill currently making the rounds at the General Session of the 2015 Utah Legislative Session could prohibit the tattooing of minors even with parental consent.
The original proposal, House Bill 143 – Prohibition on Tattooing of Minors, sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen, sought to completely prohibit tattooing any minor under the age of 18. According to current Utah law, any minor under the age of 18 can receive a tattoo as long as the tattoo artist has either the written permission of the minor’s legal guardian along with reasonable proof of their guardianship or if the guardian is present at the time of the tattoo.
At a House Judiciary Standing Committee meeting on Feb. 10, Christensen presented his proposal to committee members and answered questions they had. During his presentation, Christensen said the concept for his bill entered his head after he saw children with tattoos in a stroller.
“It kind of alerted me,” Christensen said, “and brought to my eyes a very sensitive matter.”
According to the bill, If caught tattooing a minor, the artist responsible could face class B misdemeanor charges as well as a $1,500 fine. The artist could also then be subject to a civil lawsuit by which they could be held responsible for the cost of the tattoo’s removal as well as court and attorney fees.
Some concerns from committee members for the bill included the questions of parental rights. Rep. Brian Greene, a Republican from Pleasant Grove, said that in many cases the law allows for parental consent for medical procedures that are experimental or controversial to some people
“Those … consequences can be much more grave than having a permanent — or with today’s technology semipermanent — marking on your body,” Greene said.
In some cases, Greene said, there can also be a relationship between tattooing and religious or cultural situations. In some cultures, such as Polynesian cultures, tattooing can carry a religious connotation that should be taken into account.
In Utah there is a lot of leniency when it comes to religion, Greene said, so parents are allowed a lot of when it comes to their children and religious practices. In his mind, prohibiting certain tattooing practices could fall along the same lines as restricting other religious decisions.
“I can’t even imagine the backlash we would hear,” Greene said, “if somebody were to propose a bill that parents shouldn’t have the ability to allow their children to be baptized at age 8.”
Based on these concerns, Greene said, he did not think he could support the bill in its current form. Concerns from members of the public during a comment portion echoed Greene’s; as well as additional concerns that some minors would get tattoos in unsterile or unsafe environments should the bill pass.
In his responses to the concerns, Christensen said he has an amended version of the bill, which has an allowance for children who are 16 years and older to get tattooed as long as their parents followed certain protocols; such as supplying proof of guardianship and obtaining a notarized form giving their consent for a tattoo. In the amended version of the bill, children under 16 would still be prohibited altogether.
In Southern Utah, some tattoo artists are not entirely opposed to the idea of restricting tattoos on minors. Michael Roberts, the owner and lead artist at Odd Fellows Tattoos in Cedar City, said tattooing minors is not something he really enjoys doing.
“At that age, you don’t really know what you want for the rest of your life,” Roberts said. “You can make some pretty dumb decisions.”
At Odd Fellows, Roberts said, minors can receive tattoos, but only if a parent comes into the studio and provides copies of birth certificates or proof of guardianship, photo identification and social security card for both the guardian and the minor. The guardian is also required to sign a consent form.
Because all these requirements are already in place at his shop, Roberts said, if the bill added a few extra steps for a minor or their guardian, he would not be opposed to it.
However, while Roberts’ business may not be greatly affected should the bill pass, he said he does have some concerns about the Utah government putting restrictions on things that parents have traditionally had a role in deciding.
“It’s just another thing that they took away from everyone,” he said. “It’s more rights they’re taking away.”
In the end, the committee voted unanimously to place a hold on the bill in order to allow Christensen to make further amendments to his proposal. Once these revisions are complete, the bill will then be brought to the committee for further discussion.
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