Another Day, Another Strip Club Tax

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) has a great idea for a new bill, to be called the Sexually Explicit Performance Tax Act.

Actually, that's all he has right now: A title. But that hasn't stopped Illinois politicos from talking about it, nicknaming it ... and unconstitutionally justifying it.

According to an article in the Chicago-area Daily Herald, Koehler's bill, SB 2862, is becoming known as the "pole tax," since it would reportedly add a $2 surcharge to the door fee already charged by Illinois' strip clubs, the revenues generated to be given to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA).

"We're going to lose approximately $1.4 million and those are funds that have been directed to counseling and advocacy," said ICASA executive director Polly Poskin. "Strip clubs contribute to society's objectification of women and taxing the products of objectifying women by rape-crisis centers is appropriate."

Of course, "objectification of women" isn't a crime (assuming that watching women strip to popular music is in fact "objectification" of them), and nobody's making similar noises about tacking a $2 surcharge on admission to Chicago Bears football games as "objectification of men" - plus there's no evidence that attendance at a strip club is a precursor for rape. Nonetheless ...

"I would hope that they [strip club owners] could see sort of a connection between the business and the necessity for rape-crisis services, but I imagine their objection will be pretty quick," Poskin said.

Indeed, Jack Corbett, a writer/photographer who runs an Internet guide to Illinois strip clubs, is already objecting.

"We would be legislating morality," said Corbett. "The message is driven home loud and clear that strip clubs are somehow linked to rape and that both are very bad things. Rape is. Strip clubs aren't."

But the owners themselves may not have to object. Illinois legislators had considered a porn tax similar to the one currently under consideration in Alabama, but were dissuaded from acting on it because of the constitutional problems such a bill would create. Moreover, last December, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois declared it unconstitutional to exempt live music and theatrical performance venues from an amusement tax that strip clubs would have to pay, ruling that the discrimination amounted to "content-based regulation" of speech.