Georgia high court: Young adults may view nude dancing

Thursday, May 28, 1998

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a state law prohibiting 18- to 20-year-olds from viewing nude dancing at commercial establishments violated the First Amendment rights of young adults.

Café Erotica, a Peach County nude dancing establishment that serves food but not alcohol, challenged the 1996 law in state court, arguing it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a similar provision in the state constitution. In State of Georgia v. Café Erotica, Inc., the Georgia Supreme Court agreed.

The court determined the law violated the fundamental rights of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who, according to the court, should be able to decide for themselves whether to view such sexual expression.

The court's decision affirms a ruling last August by a Georgia Superior court judge who said that “while protecting minors from certain forms of sexual expression is an important state interest, protecting adults from such expression is neither a compelling state interest nor constitutional.”

The state's highest court determined the state's legitimate interest in protecting minors from sexually explicit material did not extend to young adults. The court concluded that the law was an “unconstitutional infringement on free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment and the Georgia Bill of Rights.”

Thomas E. Maddox Jr., attorney for the club, told said: “The two most important findings in the court's decision were that the law was clearly a content-based law and that
the court will not defer to the Legislature when a fundamental right, such as the First Amendment, is at issue.”

W. Wright Banks Jr., the assistant attorney general who argued the case for the state, said: “We are still looking at the decision and consulting with various state officials as to whether we will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. At this point, however, I would say it is doubtful that we would appeal the decision.”