The first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in the new 111th Congress in 2009 undid the Supreme Court’s ruling in a pay discrimination challenge involving Lilly Ledbetter. The last bill signed by the president in this congressional session may be a response to another ruling by the justices.
Congress spent roughly 16 months fighting over the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. But it has taken only six months to move legislation through both houses to address the First Amendment implications of banning animal crush videos.
The Senate on Tuesday, by voice vote, passed the proposed Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010. The legislation was adopted as a substitute amendment to a similar House bill overwhelmingly passed by the House in July. The Senate version must return now to the House for its approval.
The Supreme Court on April 20, voting 8-1, struck down the federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act of 1999. The majority in U.S. v. Stevens found the law was overbroad. Under the 1999 act, it was a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to make, sell or possess “a depiction of animal cruelty” if done for commercial gain. The majority suggested that a narrower statute, one limited to crush videos, might pass constitutional muster. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter.
Crush videos, which appeal to a certain sexual fetish, generally involve scantily-dressed women in high heels stomping on small animals.
The Senate legislation would criminalize the creation, sale, distribution, advertising, marketing, and exchange of animal crush videos. The penalty for violations of the measure would be up to seven years in prison.
“Our legislation would ban animal crush videos that fit squarely within the obscenity doctrine, a well-established exception to the First Amendment. It also takes the important step of banning non-commercial distribution of animal crush videos, which is necessary given the nature of the Internet and the propagation of file-sharing and peer-to-peer networks that exist today,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), co-sponsor along with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), in a statement on Tuesday.
The Humane Society of the United States has been a major supporter of the bill. It noted on Tuesday that there has been a “massive resurgence” of crush videos for sale on the Internet since the Supreme Court and lower court rulings.