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Ohio Strip club backers balk at Citizens for Community Values Demands

COLUMBUS – A group trying to overturn new statewide restrictions on strip clubs said Thursday it will continue to use the name Citizens for Community Standards, despite the threat of lawsuit by a conservative Christian organization with a similar name.

Citizens for Community Values, the religious group that pushed for restrictions that prohibit patrons from touching strippers and halts nude dancing after midnight, accuses the strip club backers of trademark infringement.

The Cincinnati-based Christian group, which says its trademark dates to the early 1990s, argues that the strip club backers adopted a similar name to confuse the public.

Sandy Theis, a spokeswoman for Citizens for Community Standards, said the group will not drop its name, which reflects a belief that local communities should have the authority to regulate strip clubs and other adult businesses within their borders.

Citizens for Community Values doesn’t have a monopoly on common everyday words such as “citizens” or “community,” Theis said.

“The last thing we want is to be confused with CCV, an antibusiness group that promotes censorship,” she said.

A simple Internet search turns up scores of other groups with names such as Citizens for Community Justice or Citizens for Community Protection – none that have been threatened with legal action, Theis said.

David Miller, a vice president with Citizens for Community Values, said if Citizens for Community Standards continues to use that name, Citizens for Community Values will get a judge to force them to stop.

Other organizations may have similar names, but only the strip club backers are marketing in the same field – competing for Ohio voters over the same topic – and that’s why it’s a trademark violation, Miller said.

The statewide crackdown on strip clubs cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature in May and was allowed to become law by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland without his signature. The law is scheduled to take effect Sept. 4.

Strip club owners and other opponents are trying to overturn the law by collecting enough signatures of registered voters to place the issue on the November ballot.

Club owners argue the law is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and expression. They need to collect about 240,000 signatures by Sept. 3 – a number that equals 6 percent of the total vote cast in the 2006 governor’s race – to get the issue on the ballot. About 100,000 signatures have been collected so far, Theis said.

Citizens for Community Values, which spearheaded the 2004 amendment that bans gay marriages in Ohio, argues that the restrictions will reduce crimes such as prostitution and illegal drug use and decrease blight in neighborhoods where strip clubs operate.

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