Attorney Suing Florida Over Stripper Age Ban Explains Lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The attorney representing the plaintiffs suing the state of Florida and its attorney general over the new stripper age ban says their suit is intended to highlight how this law simply punishes a small pool of young adults.

Gary S. Edinger, a well-regarded First Amendment lawyer based in Gainesville, tells AVN that strippers being prevented from working at strip clubs because they are not yet 21 violates a lot more than their free speech rights.

Edinger is lead counsel for 19-year-old nude dancer Serenity Michelle Bushey, Café Risque, Bushey's former employer and the parent company of the Jacksonville-based club, Sinsations; and Exotic Fantasies, a retailer in Jacksonville.

Bushey, who, along with other dancers under 21, is now out of work despite being of legal age in other respects, such as paying taxes.

They have sued Florida and its attorney general, Ashley Moody, in a federal district court in a bid to block the law, which stipulates one must be 21 to work in adult venues and retailers, and recently entered into force. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law during a ceremony at Coral Gables in May 2024.

Edinger explained that the lawsuit seeking to block House Bill 7063 is closely related to an ordinance adopted in Jacksonville that increased the age for nude and bikini dancers from 18 to 21. A suit was filed in 2020, before the height of social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Edinger represented a class of plaintiffs that included Sinsations.

"The challenge we brought against the Jacksonville ordinance is a strong First Amendment claim backed by a solid factual record," explained Edinger, adding that he recently presented oral arguments before a panel of judges at the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on June 6. He additionally added that he presented to a "very engaged and interested panel."

"The questioning was so vigorous that my share of the argument went over by about 8 or 10 minutes—a very unusual phenomenon," Edinger said. "Most of the questions focused on whether Jacksonville's ordinance was content-based—which it is, on its face. If that is the ultimate holding, Jacksonville's ordinance will be declared unconstitutional."

Edinger went on to explain that his lawsuit targeting HB 7063 is dependent on how the Eleventh Circuit will rule on the challenge to the Jacksonville ordinance. 

"The takeaway is that we remain confident that the Eleventh Circuit will declare Jacksonville's under-21 ordinance to be unconstitutional," he said. "If that is the outcome, HB 7063 will be unconstitutional for the same reasons."

Presented as a measure by conservative Republicans in the Florida state legislature, the bill was positioned as intended to mitigate human trafficking and unlawful activity at sex-oriented businesses. But it has been criticized by the local club scene and members of the industry as doing very little to prevent trafficking. Given the severe criminal penalties built into this law, there is a clear First Amendment concern for this has prompted the suit.

HB 7063 applies to businesses that fall under the state's definition of adult entertainment, including strip clubs, burlesque shows, adult bookstores, and adult theaters. 

Penalties include up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, which allows a prohibited individual to reveal breasts, buttocks, or genitals. If the prohibited person is clothed, the club owner could be charged with a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail, and could potentially pay a fine of up to $1,000. Fake ID cards also don't shield owners from criminal liability. 

"First, HB 7063 regulates adult retail stores, including take-out-only stores without viewing booths or live entertainment," concluded Edinger. "Studies and literature suggest that human trafficking occurs at strip clubs on rare occasions (less than 1 percent of reported cases)."

"However, there is no evidence whatsoever that trafficking is associated with adult retail stores—none. Nada. Zip," he added.