Ohio Adult Businesses Again Denied Restraining Order

CLEVELAND, Oh. – A second challenge to Substitute Senate Bill 16 – dubbed the "Community Defense Act" by its supporters – has been rejected, and adult businesses' motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the bill, which went into effect on Oct. 17, 2007, has met defeat.

According to a press release from the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV), which spent the first half of 2007 campaigning around the state for the bill's passage, and vigorously fought the petition drive created by a consortium of adult businesses for a ballot referendum on the measure, Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, ruled yesterday that the law should remain in effect pending a trial on the law's constitutionality.

The two primary effects of the law have been to require all adult businesses to close between midnight and 6 a.m. daily, and to prohibit dancers who perform nude or semi-nude from coming within six feet of customers, whether or not the dancers are unclothed when they do so. According to CCV, this "eliminat[es] lap dances and other acts of prostitution."

Adult businesses challenged SB 16 from the very start, campaigning extensively against its passage, then beginning a petition drive to have Ohio's citizenry decide whether they wanted to have the state's strip clubs and bookstores closed during some of their busiest periods of the evening – an action which had the effect of staying implementation of the new regulations until the petitions were tallied, and if successful, until the referendum results were tallied. Counting the number of signatures on the anti-SB 16 petitions proved to be extremely controversial, because although many more signatures were collected than were required to place the referendum on the ballot, Ohio law requires that a certain number of signatures come from at least half of the state's 88 counties, and the petitioners failed in several cases to meet those quotas.

Undaunted, the adult consortium sued in federal court to overturn the law, arguing that the new regulations were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and that they impacted the adult businesses' First Amendment rights to free expression. While that suit was underway, the Ohio legislature passed SB 183, which modified certain of the definitions contained in SB 16, and once again, the adult businesses sought another TRO based on the revised law. It was that motion which was denied yesterday.

According to the CCV press release, "Even before yesterday’s decision was announced, the sex industry had announced its intent to appeal to the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals."