New York sex shops take adult zoning law fight to federal appeals court

Wednesday, March 11, 1998

Attorneys for New York City sex shops took their case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on March 11.

The shops continue to battle the city over its restrictive zoning law which will effectively close down the vast majority of sexually oriented businesses in the city.

More than 100 adult businesses challenged the three-year-old zoning law in both state and federal court. Last month the highest state court ruled the zoning law constitutional, and last week a federal district court upheld the law, in part, because of the prior state court decision.

“Plaintiffs have not shown that they did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate ably and vigorously in the state courts,” wrote the federal district court.

Herald Price Fahringer, attorney for many of the sex shop owners, said that “we are seeking a ruling from the federal appeals court to stay the district court ruling until after the appeals process.”

Norman Siegal, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said: “We obviously are disappointed with the federal district court decision. The decision reflects the sign of the times where the principles of censorship prevail over the principles of free expression.

“We are appealing to the 2nd Circuit,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get a continuation of the stay and obtain an expedited appeal. If that doesn't happen and the [Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani administration starts vigorously enforcing the zoning law, there will be less freedom of expression and, more particularly, less sexual expression in the city of New York, which will be a sad occurrence.”