Virginia Democrats Admit to Trading Off Their Age Verification Votes for Unrelated Bill

Virginia Democrats Admit to Trading Off Their Age Verification Votes for Unrelated Bill

RICHMOND, Va. — A Democratic Virginia state senator has admitted that he and Republican senators used the issue of age verification for adult material as a bargaining chip to negotiate the language of an unrelated piece of legislation.

According to a report published Monday by the Washington Post, Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) boasted about persuading Republicans to remove the word “homosexuality” from a bill defining “sexual conduct” in Virginia, in exchange for providing Democratic support for the controversial age verification bill introduced by religious conservative Sen. Bill Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin).

The Virginia bill was signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in May and went into effect on July 1, the same day that a similar bill went into effect in Mississippi. Virginia’s law was passed with bipartisan support, which became a bragging point for religious conservatives.

It appears, however, that Democrats did not support the measure out of conviction or agreement with Republican allegations of a “public health crisis” around pornography. Instead, according to Surovell, removing one word from an unrelated bill was a more determinant consideration for Democratic legislators than whether the vaguely worded age verification measure would infringe on Virginians' First Amendment rights or embroil the state in costly litigation.

“I said to Senator Stanley, ‘If you’d like to pass your bill, you need to make the definition” of “sexual conduct” not include “homosexuality,” Surovell told the Post. “So, basically I stuck my bill into his bill. This is a sort of a belt and suspenders thing, and he was willing to do that if that meant I wasn’t going to put meat on his bill and kill it.”

“Belt and suspenders” is apparently a colloquial phrase used by money lenders to describe overlapping layers of risk mitigation, like using two redundant methods for holding up one’s pants.

Stanley recently defended his controversial, vaguely worded mandate by claiming that adult sites are harmful “in the sense of body shaming issues, developing proper relationships, what is normal.”

“What are on these websites are not normal,” Stanley declared.

Democrats Quietly Supporting Religious Republicans' Legislation

As XBIZ reported, Democrats have been quietly supporting state-based campaigns to enact age verification, which religious conservative activists have admitted are an incremental strategy for achieving the ultimate goal of outlawing all sexual expression online by restarting obscenity prosecutions at the federal level.

Until Surovell’s candid admission to the Washington Post, political observers had suspected that only Democrats from “purple districts” were supporting the Republican state-by-state age verification campaign, out of fear that they would be characterized as pro-porn by conservative opponents.

In May, Texas Democrats overwhelmingly backed local Republicans’ version of the age verification law. While its language was similar to laws in Louisiana, Utah, Virginia and Arkansas, the Texas law went even further by compelling adult websites accessible in the state to post pseudoscientific statements derived from anti-porn propaganda in the form of three “Texas Health and Human Services Warnings.”

Those warnings read: “Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses and weakens brain function”; “Exposure to this content is associated with low self-esteem and body image, eating disorders, impaired brain development, and other emotional and mental illnesses”; and “Pornography increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation and child pornography.”

XBIZ repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to contact several Texas Democratic Party communications offices to inquire about their support for this apparent instance of compelled speech.

Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit last week seeking to halt the Texas law.

Bargaining Free Speech to Fight 'A Prejudiced View'

The Virginia definition that Surovell and the Democrats traded for their support of age verification “is used in a number of laws, including the law that requires schools to inform parents of sexually explicit materials used in classrooms,” the Washington Post reported.

Gov. Youngkin last summer enacted a measure requiring the Virginia Department of Education “to publish guidance for how sexually explicit material should be handled and how parents should be informed about it — so they could opt their children out of learning it,” the Post explained. “The guidelines referenced the state code’s definition of sexual conduct as ‘actual or explicitly simulated acts of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if such be female, breast.’”

Speaking to the Post this week, Surovell attempted to justify trading Democratic votes in support of a Republican culture wars initiative by insisting that, in amending the unrelated bill, he was combating an “archaic and prejudiced view as to what homosexuality is.”

A day before the new law went into effect, Pornhub was advised by its lawyers to fully block its website in the Commonwealth.

“We are sorry to let our loyal visitors in these states down but have opted to comply with the newly effective law in this way because it is ineffective and worse, will put both user privacy and children at risk,” read Pornhub’s statement at the time.

Copyright © 2024 Adnet Media. All Rights Reserved. XBIZ is a trademark of Adnet Media.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.

More News

Adult Site Broker Talk's Bruce Friedman Reflects on Podcast Success

The 200th episode of Adult Site Broker Talk will air next week, with 2023 XBIZ Performer of the Year Cherie DeVille as a very special guest.

FSC Asks Supreme Court to Overturn 5th Circuit Decision, Strike Texas' Age Verification Law

Free Speech Coalition (FSC) filed a petition for certiorari on Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit panel decision that partially upheld Texas’ controversial age verification law.

Details Emerge About Capture, Arrest of GirlsDoPorn's Michael Pratt

Further details have emerged in the past week about the capture and arrest of GirlsDoPorn owner Michael Pratt in Spain in December 2022, following his extradition to the U.S. last month.

Magdalene St. Michaels, Andy Rodrigues Named as AEBN Top Stars for Q1 of 2024

AEBN has announced its top-selling stars for the first quarter of 2024, with Magdalene St. Michaels landing atop the leader board for straight theaters and Andy Rodrigues heading up the gay rankings.

YouPay Partners With IP Security Solution Sidenty

Australian gifting platform YouPay has joined forces with IP security solution Sidenty to help creators guard against online theft and unauthorized use of their content.

Grooby Launches Fetish Site 'Joey's Trans Feet Girls'

Grooby has debuted Joey's Trans Feet Girls, a new fetish membership site featuring foot content by top trans performers.

Lady Lyne Launches New Paysite Through AdultPrime

IMC’s AdultPrime has expanded its network of paysites with the launch performer Lady Lyne's official site.

UK Media Regulator Encourages Companies, Creators to Provide Feedback on 'Categorized Services'

U.K. media regulator Ofcom is again asking adult industry companies, creators and other stakeholders to provide feedback to help it establish new regulations under the Online Safety Act (OSA) — regulations that will impact the accessibility of online adult content.

Internet Researcher Maggie MacDonald Pens Op-Ed on the Risks of Canada's Age Verification Proposals

Online safety academic and Ethical Capital Partners’ advisory board member Maggie MacDonald penned an editorial for the Toronto Globe and Mail arguing that although mandatory age-verification for adult content will not work to prevent online harms for minors, it will erode everyone’s privacy instead.

LoyalFans to Hold 'Master Class' Event With Ezada Sinn

LoyalFans will hold a special "Master Class" livestream with content creator Ezada Sinn, titled "Growing Your LoyalFans Account & Creating Passive Income," on Saturday at 2 p.m. EDT.

Show More