Some Florida strip club owners are lobbying to lower the age limit for dancers from 21 to 18-years-old, calling the current age requirement unconstitutional.
A lawyer representing 13 clubs and four dancers in Jacksonville argued before a federal judge that dancing is a form of expression protected under the First Amendment.
“This is just a ban on speech,” attorney Gary Edinger said.
The city law currently bans dancers under the age of 21 and was passed in an effort to reduce sex trafficking. The measure also requires dancer to have city-issued ID cards.
City attorneys said younger people are more susceptible to the coercion that’s often part of trafficking and argued that 21 is a safer age.
During Friday’s hearing U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan repeatedly asked about the trade-off between personal rights and pubic interests.
“When you start telling adults what they can and can’t do, you’ve got to bring the goods. These are people who can vote, they can go into the service,” the judge said.
The Florida Times-Union reports the parties are also arguing over whether issuing ID cards to the dancers as a kind of work permit could be justified as a legal form of prior restraint on dancers who would otherwise have a right to perform.
The Times-Union reported that neither City attorney Jason Teal nor Edinger said they knew of another Florida county saying dancers who were adults were too young to perform.
Corrigan noted that a Louisiana court ruling cited in lawyers’ briefs upheld a ban on dancers under 21 in clubs serving alcohol, but allowed them to perform in clubs that were alcohol-free.
Edinger, who has a long history representing local strip clubs, had sued on behalf of 12 clubs that serve alcohol and one that doesn’t, all of whom would be affected by the new age limit, according to the newspaper.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.