Court Upholds Nude Dancing Limits
W A S H I N G T O N, March 29 -- The Supreme Court made it easier for local governments to ban nude dancing in about 3,000 adult clubs nationwide, ruling today that a stripper’s freedom ofexpression can be restricted by forcing her to wear pasties and a G-string.
Nude dancing can be banned in an effort to combat crime andother harms that adult entertainment clubs often attract, thejustices said in a splintered decision reinstating a public-nudityordinance in Erie, Pa.
Such dancing is “expressive conduct” but it falls “onlywithin the outer ambit” of the Constitution’s First Amendmentfree-speech protection, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in thecourt’s main opinion.
The ban promotes Erie’s “interest in combating the negativesecondary effects associated with adult entertainmentestablishments,” such as crime, and was not aimed at a dancer’serotic message, O’Connor said.
About 3,000 Nude Clubs Across Nation Although the court’s rationale was divided, the decision is sureto have broad impact. Nude entertainment is featured in about 3,000adult clubs nationwide, the justices were told when the case wasargued in November.
“We’re delighted,” said Valerie Sprenkle, Erie’s assistantcity solicitor. “We didn’t ban any expression. … What’s beingregulated is the means of expression.”
Sprenkle said dancers at a nude dancing club in the city “willbe required to cover up to the extent required by the ordinance.”
John H. Weston, attorney for the former Erie nude-dancing clubowner who challenged the ordinance, said the ruling may lead to aflurry of attempts to ban nude dancing, but that “sexuallyoriented businesses will always thrive” because of theirpopularity.
Weston said the ruling appeared to leave room for club owners toforce governments to “defend their assumptions” that suchestablishments lead to crime.