A Third District Court judge has struck down Salt Lake City's sexually oriented business ordinance, calling it unconstitutional.
But an attorney representing several adult businesses offered only muted enthusiasm for the ruling.The ruling, dated Aug. 2, sent an assistant city attorney scurrying back to the drawing board after obtaining a 10-day stay from Judge Leonard H. Russon. The stay allows the city to still enforce the law while it makes minor amendments to the ordinance that will maintain its intent.
Russon, in a ruling released Thursday, said some portions of the city's ordinance restrict freedom of speech, are too vague, or are overly broad and therefore declared the entire ordinance unconstitutional.
"We're very encouraged that the judge found the ordinance unconstitutional; we think it sends a signal out that the Constitution is still alive and kicking, despite the efforts of some politicians to kill it,' said Steven Cook, who represents several local adult businesses.
But Cook, whose clients sued the city May 1 seeking to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional, said the ruling "brings us right back to square one" and would not mark the end of litigation over the ordinance.
Cook also acknowledged that Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird may be successful in repairing the ordinance with amendments made by the city council during the 10-day stay, making the law pass Constitutional scrutiny.
Russon noted one section of the law that makes it illegal to touch customers at a sexually oriented business is "over broad and impacts fundamental rights."
He wrote, "To prohibit touching whatsoever, of any part of the body (which would ostensibly include shaking hands), goes too far."
Baird said such objections could be mitigated. Unconstitutional restrictions on touching, for example, could be alleviated by defining "specified anatomical areas" in the ordinance, he said.
"We can fix it fairly easily - 98 percent of the ordinance survived," Baird said.
If the city does patch the ordinance, Cook said his clients will likely bring suit against the city immediately, challenging the constitutionality of the revised document.
Baird successfully obtained the 10-day stay, leaving the ordinance in effect, so that the city council could act on the ordinance. The ordinance, however, does not affect the plaintiffs in the civil suit, who, under a another court ruling, are exempted from the ordinance.