ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 9 -- Some things are private: religion, how a person votes and, if the Maryland House of Delegates has its way, what a person checks out of the neighborhood video store.
The House voted 132 to 2 today for what has become known as the Bork Bill, which would make it illegal for a video rental store to release a customer's records. Sponsors in both the House and Senate said they filed the bill after Washington's City Paper published a list of movies rented by Robert H. Bork when he was a nominee for the Supreme Court.
"It shocked me," said Del. William R. McCaffrey (D-Prince George's), who said he did not know before then that there was no legal prohibition against releasing the rental lists.
Sens. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery) and Ida Ruben (D-Montgomery), who have teamed up to sponsor the bill in that chamber, also were surprised. "I felt that to be an outrageous invasion of privacy," Denis said.
Denis told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week that besides the privacy question, the lists could be misconstrued. He brought his own records to show that a movie on his list called, in computer shorthand, "Cat on a Hot," was really "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," the movie version of the Tennessee Williams play starring Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives. "I'm a Burl Ives fan," he said.
Video store owners, who for the most part supported the Bork Bill, said it already was the policy of most stores not to release a customer's records. But Denis said it should also be illegal, in the same way that it is illegal for a person's library records to be released.
The Senate committee voted today to send the bill to the floor, after amending it to allow the stores to sell customer's names, but not their movie preferences, to companies that sell videos.
D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke has filed a similar bill in the District as a result of the City Paper's Bork story, and federal legislation also is pending.