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NEWS

VA Legislators Worry Pay-Per-View Tax Could “Legitimize” Porn

by Kathee Brewer

Virginia’s General Assembly has passed a bill that will add a 5-percent tax to pay-per-view movies watched in the state’s hotel and motel rooms.

The potential revenue is earmarked for attracting more Hollywood projects to Virginia’s historic towns and scenic countryside. Though rife with period detail and sweeping vistas, the state never has been a major player in the film industry.

However, legislators now worry they may have goofed. In addition to a Wall Street Journal article pointing out the surcharge may not yield the anticipated revenues because film industry projects have been scaled back, some critics are concerned the law could have an unintended effect.

Del. Robert G. Marshall [R-Prince William], a long-standing proponent of quashing anything resembling sexuality, pointed out that taxing in-room movies — the majority of which are adult entertainment — could legitimize the porn industry.

Even diverting the tax revenues to projects in desperate need of financial aid — like schools, law enforcement and roads — wouldn’t negate the bad taste legitimizing porn stands to leave in Marshall’s mouth. After Del. John Cosgrove [R-Chesapeake] proposed an amendment that would route incoming funds to infrastructure needs, Marshall questioned whether “relying upon the porno industry to build roads in Virginia” was a good idea.

A possible solution to Marshall’s concerns? Separating the tax by movie category: One rate and tracking system for mainstream flicks and another for smut. That’s been tried, though, and it didn’t work. A Colorado bill that attempted to tax hotel porn stalled because of constitutional concerns.

Taxing porn separately from other in-room movies “would be the same thing as having a tax on Pat Robertson’s show,” an attorney for the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Denver Post.

In other words, categories of legal speech, no matter how offensive or exalted, can’t be burdened or elevated by special treatment.

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