WASHINGTON, D.C.—Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal statute outlawing the creation and sale of videos depicting animal cruelty, and the ruling didn't sit well with various members of Congress. But the bill designed to narrow the law to simply ban "crush videos"—videos where, typically, a woman in high-heeled shoes crushes a rodent—may have to be re-presented next year since Congress appears to be running out of time this term to vote on revisions to the bill.
Authored by California Rep. Elton Gallegly (who also wrote, a decade ago, what became 18 U.S.C. Sec. 48, the law the Supreme Court overturned), H.R. 5566, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, would ban the creation, sale, trading or distribution of videos depicting "actual conduct in which 1 or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury," or the advertising of same.
AVN's earlier article on this bill noted that Gallegly had tried to link such videos to federal obscenity laws, even though that would require that the videos "depict or describe patently offensive 'hard core' sexual conduct," which crush videos clearly don't.
But the obscenity link isn't what's stalling the bill. Rather, it's the fact that after the House passed the legislation and sent it to the Senate for approval, senators added language that would make it a federal crime, punishable by up to seven years in jail, to attempt or conspire to create or distribute a crush video—an amendment Gallegly considers unnecessary, since it's already a crime to conspire to violate any federal criminal law.
So Gallegly had that language stripped out of the bill, the House passed it in that amended form, but now the bill must go back to the Senate for approval of the final version—but with just eight days left in this Congress's "lame duck" session, the Senate is unlikely to take the bill up again before adjourning for the year.
Gallegly, of course, was disappointed.
"Cruelty to animals is often the first step leading to violence against people," the Simi Valley Congressman told the Ventura County Star. "While the torture of defenseless animals is in itself despicable, by allowing these videos to be widely sold, Congress is potentially putting human lives at risk."
But even if the bill is eventually passed, it seems likely to run up against the same problem that doomed Gallegly's previous effort: The Supreme Court's apparent unwillingness to expand the definition of "obscenity," as it likewise refused to do in the Stevens case.