Phoenix Sex Clubs Fight Back

The owners of four Phoenix sex clubs are a long way from giving up the fight against a new city ordinance that prohibits anyone from operating "a live sex act business." \n Earlier in January, the owners of Chameleons, Guys and Dolls, Encounters and Discretions lost a bid to have U.S. District Judge Rosalyn Silver grant a temporary restraining order. Shortly thereafter, a federal appeals court upheld Judge SilverĀ¹s decision, clearing the way for the city to begin enforcement. \n Now the owners have filed a new suit, Recreational Developments of Phoenix, Inc. v. City of Phoenix, that claims the city is violating the First Amendment. \n The clubs are open to members only. A lawyer for one of the clubs said the purpose of the enterprise is to provide a place where open-minded people with similar beliefs can meet and dance and talk about their lifestyle with each other. \n The suit says members "dance, socialize, engage in certain other forms of expressive activity including performances that may be erotic or sexual in nature and participate in certain consensual conduct involving other adults." The lawyer called for the city to stop imposing its morality on the protected activities of consenting adults. \n He said that, as it is written, the law against "any business in which one or more persons...may participated in a live sex act for consideration" could be applied to any hotel or motel in the city. \n The city argued it has a right to ban these clubs because they spread sexually transmitted diseases and are harmful to the health and morals of Phoenix citizens. James Hays, Phoenix assistant city attorney, said the law only applies to sexual acts, not speech or expression. He said there is no constitutional right to run a business that encourages or permits people to engage in sex acts or watch others. \n The next legal step likely will be a hearing in February in which the clubs ask for a preliminary injunction against enforcing the law. \n For now, though, the law will be enforced, Hays said, although enforcement may initially take the form of investigation rather than raids and arrests.