Tennessee Senate panel bans totally nude dancing

Thursday, March 19, 1998

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17 overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban totally nude dancing and require exotic dancers to don G-strings and pasties.

Proposed by Sen. Keith Jordan, the bill would also require owners to undergo a licensing process, require adult businesses to close by 1 a.m., require dancers to carry permits, prohibit performers from coming within six feet of patrons, and would ban adult businesses from selling certain sex toys, including “phallic-shaped vibrators.”

The bill was passed to control certain harmful secondary effects purportedly associated with adult-businesses, such as “increasing crime” and the “downgrading of property values.” Sen. Jordan told The Tennessean: “This [law] gives communities a tool with which to attack a public health problem.”

The law states that “it is not the intent of Legislature to suppress any speech activities protected by the First Amendment, but to enact a content-neutral act which addresses the secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses.”

The law is based in part on a Chattanooga city ordinance that was held constitutional last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in DLS, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga.

In that case, the federal appeals court upheld a six-foot buffer zone between patrons and performers.

Roger Jon Diamond, a prominent First Amendment attorney who specializes in adult-entertainment litigation, said: “I'm in court all the time with these buffer zones. It is now pretty tough to go into a federal court and knock down one of these ordinances. One federal court just recently upheld a 10-foot distance requirement.”

According to Diamond, “the legislators are sophisticated enough to know that they must state there are these harmful secondary effects in order to regulate and restrict nude dancing. It's a bunch of baloney and excuses, but they do it in order to survive constitutional review.”

The House version of the bill goes to a subcommittee next week.