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When Sex Toys Are the Issue: Pro-Starship group speaks out on Business License denial

georgia- Theirs is a completely different take on an issue that had hundreds of citizens up in arms recently and the Coweta County Commission responding to citizen demands.

But for Coweta resident Justin Huggins and his group, Cowetans for Starship, Coweta’s denial of a business license to the Thomas Crossroads location of Starship Adult Novelties & Gifts drew support for store owner Kelly Rogers at a rally Feb. 7 by a handful of the group’s reported 454 members.

Speaking outside the store and equipped with pro-Starship signs for the occasion, Huggins said the business license denial and the commission’s recent adoption of ordinances for sexually-oriented businesses and obscenity were at odds with the rights of Rogers and others.

“We believe that the government does not have the right to control what we do in our bedrooms. We believe we have our first amendment rights and they are being impeded by the denial of these ordinances and by the denial of (Starship’s) business license,” Huggins said, adding that his position is one aimed at supporting the rights of anyone facing undue government regulation.

“I believe one of the reasons they were denied their license is that they were being pressured by anti-Starship protesters. The problem with that is that these people are passionate about some things, but there are not many people who are passionate for pornography and for (sex toys). I’m passionate for freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment. That’s why I’m out here and trying to rally people here, whether or not they support (sex toys) or pornography. I’m here to support people’s rights. Sex is not a dirty word. Sex is a part of humanity, though it shouldn’t be perverted and corrupted as we see so often. But it is a part of our humanity and we can’t ignore it and hope it goes away.”

As he and others stood outside Starship, Huggins reiterated that his focus and intent is more broad-based than the legal obstacles faced by a single individual or business. Huggins added that he has no problem with zoning issues. Referencing a past situation between a local church and a dessert business, Huggins said the church fought the business on zoning grounds, not on the products it sold. If the church had fought the business on moral grounds, Huggins said he would have opposed it.

“If the church had said they were fighting it because a cheesecake business promotes gluttony therefore we don’t need it in our society, then I would have (opposed their position),” Huggins said.

Also at the site Feb. 7 in favor of Starship’s opening was Sharpsburg resident Elaine Monroy.

“I am 67 years old and my husband is 70 and what we do in our own home is our own business. I’m a great-grandmother, I’m a good lady and I pay my bills,” Monroy said, adding that the presence of Starship is not a detriment to the community. “I just feel that if you don’t want to shop here, don’t shop here. This man has the right to be here.”

Monroy said the county’s failure to verify that Rogers had conformed to ordinance requirements that less than 25 percent of his stock was adult-oriented amounted to a case of pre-judgment.

“Apparently they’ve checked his other stores and they don’t feel that it will be less than 25 percent. But I feel that unless they come and count his inventory they should not prejudge him,” Monroy said. “He’s offered to obey their rules and I think the man has bent over backwards. He’s a nice man and a Coweta resident. I think we need the business and the tax money and the employment for local citizens.”

Huggins, who plans to be a pastor, said that whether anyone believes it or not, his belief in the right to freedom of speech and expression with the least government intervention is fundamental to his support for Starship.

“We believe in small government. We believe that the purpose of government and law is to protect one’s livelihood, one’s property and one’s liberties. We feel that this is a violation of our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression and we’re here to speak out against that prejudice,” Huggins said. “By ‘our’ freedom, I mean yours, mine, Starship’s. Once we begin to measure someone’s freedom of speech, then we can start to measure that someone’s not allowed to go and make a church because enough people decide they don’t want it. It’s the rights in the Constitution that are being violated here. And freedom of (speech and expression) cannot be measured.”

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