When Hillsborough County enacted tough new regulations that targeted sexually- oriented businesses, it put into motion the usual scenarios. Luke Lirot was on the case, and the county was soon sued. Lirot, representing three bikini bars, is seeking an injunction against enforcing the new adult-entertainment ordinance.
No need to repeat all of the details here, except that the suit’s couched in the bedrock context of First Amendment and due process rights.
It’s another high-profile skirmish in a long-running battle that pits governments against lap-dance emporiums and other adult businesses over the touchy, as it were, issue of where the First Amendment ends and lewd behavior begins. Likely, this is not what (even the randiest of ) the Founding Fathers and three-fourths of the states had remotely in mind when the free-speech, free press First Amendment (and nine others) was ratified in 1791. Arguably, no one could have foreseen the following 215 years as a speech-expression-behavior slippery slope.
What is without question, however, is that this is serious law and serious business – with serious ramifications: legal, economic and quality of life.
And yet, it is impossible to read with a straight face the rationales as quoted in the lawsuit. Among them: that the adult businesses provide a “socially enriching experience,” which can’t be bad for a community. Moreover, “The presentation of expressive dance performances is a beneficial social activity which creates an improved self-image for the dancer and joy and entertainment for the beholder.”
Not to straddle the issue, but this isn’t about Ginger and Fred. It’s about Jasmine and John and those who don’t want their stripping of the light fantastic nearby. And for those who keep tabs, it’s also about vice unit detectives running up big bar-dance-and-tip bills to convict a handful of raunchy Little Egypts polishing their self images.
In short, there’s a lot not to like about adult entertainment in your community, the problematic cost of litigating it and the ongoing parody of the otherwise sacrosanct First Amendment.
As for where legal ends and lewd begins, unfortunately we can never codify the 1964 common-sense musings of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.