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Texas Sex shops suing over ordinance

San Antonio- Operators of two pornographic video shops, Adult Video Megaplex and Adult Video, filed a lawsuit last week alleging the city’s ordinance on adult arcades illegally chills free speech.
City vice officers in November and early December ticketed managers or clerks in the stores, and threatened them with arrest, citing violations such as not having an unobstructed view into the stores’ video viewing areas.

Adult Video Megaplex has locations at 9405 North Interstate 35 and 11827 N. U.S. 281. Adult Video has four stores in the area, but the one involved in the suit is at 5521 E. Interstate 10.

The plaintiffs are requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction declaring the law – which is aimed at curbing secondary effects, such as prostitution – unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia issued an order last week saying both the city and the shops temporarily agreed to the status quo – meaning no more tickets – until a hearing in early January.

In the suit, the shops said the city failed to meet a legal requirement – established in prior court cases – that government entities show why a law is needed, and whether the regulations specifically target secondary effects without stifling free speech.

Cynthia Orr, one of the lawyers representing Adult Video Megaplex, said her client runs a clean, “wholesome” operation and is within the law.

“We provide a service – a place for adults to go see adult entertainment,” Orr said. “It’s not obscenity. It’s protected speech.”

Deputy City Attorney Michael Hodge said the suit is without merit.

City Councilman Chip Haass, whose District 10 contains many of the porn shops and strip clubs in the city, said police are under orders to enforce the city’s laws regulating adult businesses because of complaints over crime associated with them.

“In my opinion, the vice squad and the other police officers should use every tool in the box to make sure these organizations abide by the rules,” Haass said. “Unfortunately, we have a problem where there is a large number of these stores, whether video stores or clubs, not operating within the law.

“If they want to test it in a court of law, we’re happy to do it. The citizens deserve their day in court also.”

Among the stores’ allegations are that the city didn’t show what proof it had that the ordinance was needed before it was passed. The ordinance says its purpose is to prevent secondary effects of adult arcades, such as “casual and anonymous sexual encounters” which promote “the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”

The shops also argue that the ordinance contains requirements – such as lighting restrictions, demands for health warning signs and configuration of the video viewing areas – that have nothing to do with the law’s intended purpose.

John Fahle, a lawyer representing Adult Video, said the city is “traveling down the dangerous path towards censorship.”

Haass vehemently disagrees.

“This is simply asking these businesses to operate as good community partners,” he said, adding, “laws have been broken in the past, and in some cases are currently being broken.”
 

 

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