Judge: Underage money maker shakers likely to prevail

by Walter Pierce

Federal judge issues preliminary injunction against state law barring under-21 strippers, saying the plaintiffs make a strong case that law is unconstitutionally vague.

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They’re not old enough to consume alcohol — but should be allowed to take off their clothes for those who are. That’s the likely outcome of a lawsuit challenging a new state law, presaged in a Wednesday ruling.

A federal judge in New Orleans today issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law that requires exotic dancers to be at least 21 years old. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling backs his issuance last October of a temporary block on the law, which was challenged by three women ages 18, 19 and 20 who argue the law deprives them of their livelihoods, imposing an economic hardship and violating their right to freedom of expression. Supporters of the law say it was written to combat human trafficking.

Wednesday’s action by Barbier keeps the law on hold until he issues a final ruling. But the judge opined today that he sees a likelihood the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail.

The Associated Press’ Kevin McGill has more:

Wednesday’s 41-page ruling granting a preliminary injunction was stronger, saying that three dancers will likely win the lawsuit on grounds that the law is unconstitutionally vague, overly broad and harms the women by violating their First Amendment rights.

The injunction blocks enforcement pending trial or another court order while Barbier works toward a decision on the law’s constitutionality. Attorneys for the state alcohol commissioner, who would enforce the law and is the defendant in the suit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment made through the commissioner’s office.

The law, also known as Act 395, makes 21 the minimum age for “entertainers whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view” at entertainment venues serving alcohol.

That language is so vague that it could lead to confusion and arbitrary enforcement, the lawsuit says. Barbier noted that there is “inconsistency” in state law on just what defines illegal nudity and said the women would likely win the argument on unconstitutional vagueness.

Barbier said briefs in the case make it clear that the law “targets strip clubs and adult entertainment venues.” However, he said, the law itself is written so broadly that it could include any performance involving nudity, including a ballet or a play.