Nude Dancing, Zoning, And The First Amendment

September 7, 2010

Domenique Brazier, owner of 500 North Avenue LLC,  has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the city of Bridgeport’s restriction on the location of adult entertainment businesses violates the First and 14th Amendments.  Her lawyer, Daniel A. Silver, stated that “nude dancing is protected speech.”

The Supreme Court has recognized that nude dancing is entitled to some sort of free speech protection dating back to the 1972 case of California v. Larue. Although the court ruled against the club in that case,  Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion did note that “at least some of the performances to which these regulations address themselves are within the limits of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression.”

For a complete analysis of how the courts address the balancing of first amendment issues and municipality’s zoning powers, read the First Amendment Center’s analysis.

NYU Law Professor Amy Adler presented her views on this whole topic in her 2009 talk at the University of Virginia’s Feminist Legal Forum.  Adler believes the Supreme Court decisions regarding nude dancing involve “an element of madness in them, they’re sort of crazy, crazy text . . . almost requiring treatment and analysis.”  She believes the decisions only make sense when considered “as not only First Amendment cases, but as cases that occupy the highly charged terrain of female power and sexuality.”

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