Saturday, July 15, 2000

Ruling on city's sex laws buoys officials

Nude dancer challenged licensing

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge has upheld Cincinnati's law restricting sexually-oriented businesses, rejecting a nude dancer's argument that the laws are unconstitutional.

        City lawyers and conservative lawmakers hailed the ruling as proof that the city's effort to regulate sex businesses has a strong legal basis and will continue.

        “I think it's a reflection that we made sure that this law was tough but legal,” said City Councilman Phil Heimlich, a Republican who sponsored the ordinance. “The message is that if they want to open a business like this, they are going to have to locate out by the junkyards and scrap yards.”

        A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Greyson Currence, who operates Extasy Entertainment, claimed the city's law was flawed on two fronts. He challenged the restriction of adult entertainment to certain zoned areas and the licensing procedures as vague and unfair.

        U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith said the city's licensing procedures were sound because they require that an applicant meet specific standards, such as being an adult, having no sex crime convictions and paying city taxes.

        But Judge Beckwith said the zoning issue was moot because Mr. Currence had moved his business from a retail, commercial space to his home and therefore was subject to different laws governing home businesses.

        That unresolved issue could open the door to future legal battles, said lawyer H. Louis Sirkin, who represents several people being prosecuted by the city for alleged violations of sexual materials laws. “This involves the legislation of morality,” said Mr. Sirkin. “It is interesting that the city is spending so much time on this type of legislation but has such difficulty passing licensing laws on who can buy and sell guns.

        “I don't think anyone has died watching a nude dance.”

        The city suggested that Mr. Currence's business was a front for prostitution and his “nude, homosexual masturbatory exhibitions, G-string massages and client straddling,” surpassed the standard for obscene behavior not protected by the First Amendment.

        As proof, Cincinnati police submitted a videotape of Mr. Currence dancing nude for an undercover informant. The judge tossed out the city's obscenity argument, ruling that the videotape and other evidence showed Cincinnati police had “no trouble keeping tabs on Mr. Currence” but failed to prove Mr. Currence's actions obscene or homosexual.

        “For instance, could not a heterosexual man take platonic pleasure in the aesthetic beauty of Michelangelo's "David?'” Judge Beckwith wrote.

        Assistant City Solicitor Richard Ganulin said the ruling gives the police department a basis to crack down on unlicensed massage and outcall services.

        “The people who are doing this have not applied for licenses,” said Mr. Ganulin. “Oftentimes these outcall services are just a front for prostitution.”


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