Ohio Adult Entertainment Industry Challenges Law That Bans Dancers From Touching Patrons

Ohio's adult entertainment industry began a legal challenge Friday to a law that bans dancers at adult clubs from touching patrons or each other.

Adult-oriented businesses are asking U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. to find the state's new law vague and an unconstitutional violation of free speech and expression.

Seventeen attorneys representing adult businesses, the state of Ohio and cities that must enforce the law filled the courtroom, many sitting in the jury box.

"We have a full house today," Oliver said.

The statewide crackdown on sexually oriented businesses, pushed by a conservative Christian group and adopted by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in May, was allowed to become law by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland without his signature.

The law also halts nude dancing in strip clubs after midnight and prohibits adult bookstores and theaters from remaining open between midnight and 6 a.m. Business owners, who say the law is hurting business, sued after it took effect this fall.

Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati-based group that pushed for the law, argues that it will reduce prostitution and illegal drug use and decrease blight in neighborhoods where strip clubs operate.

Dozens of studies across the country that concluded restrictions on adult entertainment can prevent an increase in crime were unscientific, according to testimony by Daniel Linz, a communications and law and society professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara who has reviewed such studies.

Attorneys representing the state of Ohio challenged Linz' credibility to testify on the issue and said he has no background in criminology. Oliver allowed Linz' testimony.

Linz said that various studies on attempts to limit crime by restricting adult entertainment districts failed to compare those areas with other neighborhoods and sometimes reflected increased police patrols around adult entertainment businesses.

The lawsuit, which names nearly 70 county prosecutors and local officials whose job it is to enforce the law, seeks a temporary restraining order or a permanent injunction to block enforcement of the new restrictions.

The judge expects testimony to continue through Monday.

The lawsuit is the latest attempt by strip club owners to block the law. Opponents failed last month to gather enough signatures to force a referendum asking voters to overturn it.