NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana law raising the minimum age for exotic dancers will not go into effect just yet.
An injunction, which bars the law from taking effect until such time that the constitutionality of the legislation can be ruled upon, was issued by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on March 8, the Associated Press reported. Act 395, which raised the minimum age to 21 for an “entertainer whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view” at venues serving alcohol, was overly vague, Barbier said in his ruling.
Three women, all under the age of 21, filed suit after the legislation passed, claiming that they would suffer economic hardship and that their constitutional rights to self-expression were violated. The plaintiffs also alleged that the law was written with overly vague language that could include venues such as theater and ballet as well as strip clubs or adult-entertainment venues.
The law, and the intent of the lawmakers when the bill was drafted, is unclear, but similar statutes in other locales have been aimed at closing the doors of strip clubs or similar venues.
Pamela Newport, an attorney at Cincinnati firm Kircher, Suetholz and Associates who has taught colleges courses focused women’s rights, told the Louisiana Record the idea that legislation could end the centuries-old sex work industry is flawed.
“I think that what tends to happen when you try to outlaw businesses like this,” she said, “when you try to outlaw sex work of any kind, it can often have the effect of driving people underground into the shadows where it’s more dangerous for them to do their job.”
Even though the law during discussion on the legislative floor seemed to be geared toward protecting young women, the idea that adult women are incapable of making their own employment choices seems archaic, Newport said.
For now, the 41-page ruling from Barbier that grants a preliminary injunction is clear — the women will likely win their suit based on the fact that the law violates their First Amendment rights to free expression.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on their overbreadth claim because there is little doubt that Act No. 395 sweeps up a fair amount of constitutionally protected speech,” Barbier said in the ruling.
The three plaintiffs in the suit, workers at an adult venue who have filed to protect their employment rights, could be seen as champions of women’s rights in their own sense, however, as they defend employment that in some circles still carries with it a stigma, Newport said.
“These young women who are coming forward to talk about it, it would be my guess, have encountered people that say that what they do is immoral, or dangerous, or that they don’t like it , and they are probably hearing those things from the same people that they see sitting in the clubs,” Newport said. “I think it is brave for these young women to come out and talk about this work, and to talk about it as work.”