Stay Granted In Houston Adult Ordinance

HOUSTON - Late Friday afternoon, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted the motion for stay of enforcement of Houston's anti-adult ordinance filed by First Amendment attorneys John H. Weston and Randy Garrou. The stay will prevent the city from delivering on promises to send violation letters to various adult businesses, which would have the effect of forcing them either to move to different locations or to close altogether.

"We were getting ready to finish our reply brief, which would have been finalized today," said Weston in an exclusive interview with, "when unexpectedly, late Friday, we got a call from the Fifth Circuit saying, in essence, 'Don't worry about your reply brief; we're granting the stay.'"

The appeals court action was a welcome relief to the adult businesses, over 100 of which would have been affected, since appeals to the district court of District Court Judge Nancy Atlas' ruling earlier this month would have allowed the city to proceed with enforcement actions.

As to why the appeals court granted his stay motion, Weston has no idea.

"It just says, 'Stay granted,'" he said. "In their answer to our stay motion, the government basically said the same things they had said in the trial court. Essentially the government said, no, we weren't raising anything that was momentous – in other words, no issues that even had serious implications for appeal – and they said it's been going on a long time, the district court made its decision, and oh by the way, the city will be harmed by not being able to enforce the ordinance. Of course, they didn't explain how the city would be harmed; the only reiterated the issues which underlie why they passed the ordinance in the first place."

However, Weston noted, the Fifth Circuit did specify an expedited briefing schedule for the adult businesses' appeal, which will mean that the briefs that make the arguments for or against overturning the ordinance will have to be submitted in short order, though Weston said that an actual schedule had not yet been released by the court.

"This is only a first step, but a hugely important one," Weston said of the granting of the stay. "We intend to devote ourselves to building on this as we try to overturn on appeal the truly startling and dangerous lower court result in this case."