Federal court again upholds Ohio law regulating sex businesses

CDA remains in effect and enforceable!

June 23, 2009- In a 45-page decision handed down late yesterday afternoon, Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland), ruled that Substitute Senate Bill 16 – the Community Defense Act (CDA) – is constitutionally sound.

Yesterday’s decision marked the second time in less than 12 months thatJudge Oliver has upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s law regulating sex businesses.

Authored by CCV and pro-family state legislators, CDA was adopted by the Ohio General Assembly on May 16, 2007. After a failed referendum effort by the sex industry, the law went into effect on October 17,2007.

At the core of CDA are two important regulations: one that requires all sex businesses to close between the hours of midnight and 6 AM, when their adverse impact increases; and one that strengthens existing Ohio law prohibiting physical contact between nude or semi-nude employees and patrons, thereby eliminating lap dances and other acts of prostitution.

Immediately upon CDA’s passage, sex business owners and their tradeassociation filed suit in the federal district court, claiming that the law was an unconstitutional suppression of their First Amendment free speech rights. Judge Oliver quickly denied their request for a Temporary Restraining Order.

The cash-rich strip club owners then filed for a preliminary injunction on the same grounds.

On August 8, 2008, Judge Oliver issued his decision on that request, unequivocally denying the sex business owner’s request on every point of law.

Meanwhile, the Ohio General Assembly passed an importuning law,S.B.183, in which the wording of certain definitions within CDA were slightly modified for consistency within Ohio code.

That change in wording gave the sex business owners an opportunity to again file suit, claiming that CDA was unconstitutionally broad and vague, among other repeated claims, and again asking for a Temporary Restraining Order or preliminary injunction.

Upon receiving yesterday’s decision, Chattanooga-based attorney Scott Bergthold, who represents several officials charged with enforcing the law, said, “The federal court’s decision upholding the Community Defense Act is strong affirmation that communities can regulate strip bars and adult book stores to minimize their adverse impacts. The court’s rejection of the sexually oriented businesses’ arguments demonstrates that Ohio has developed reasonable and constitutional regulations that can been forced.”

Even before yesterday’s decision was announced, the sex industry had announced its intent to appeal to the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.

That appeal does not concern CCV’s president, Phil Burress. “The Sixth Circuit already has upheld similar adult business laws with even more restrictive regulations,” noted Burress, “and we have no doubt that CDA will be upheld there, too.”

He echoed Bergthold’s sentiments: “The fact is, Ohio has a constitutionally sound law to regulate sex businesses in a way that is in the best interest of Ohio’s communities and families. CDA already has had a positive impact on many communities. And law enforcement agencies throughout the state have a responsibility to vigorously enforce it.”

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