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
“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,”
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.”