Salt Lake City is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the city's new, restrictive sexually oriented business ordinance.

Attorney Gerry Mooney, representing several businesses including Dream Escorts, filed a 3rd District lawsuit last month, saying the city's ordinance is an unconstitutional attempt to deny civil rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.But in court documents filed this week, Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that society's interest in protecting erotic materials is of a lesser magnitude than protecting political debate.

The city's ordinance was adopted by the City Council last month and tightens regulations for businesses such as adult bookstores, video stores and theaters, as well as sexually oriented out-call services or bars that feature semi-nude dancers.

In the motion, Baird said the ordinance doesn't prohibit nude performances, but does give such businesses the maximum freedom they are entitled to under the Constitution.

The city argues that the lawsuit is unclear in asserting whether all nude performances should be considered protected rights, as some such performances are clearly not constitutionally mandated, such as nude modeling in the middle of State Street at noon or in front of minors.

The city adopted a comprehensive business licensing and zoning ordinance April 5, which requires strict disclosure of owners and partners of adult oriented businesses. Such establishments are allowed to operate only within a certain zone of the city, separated from churches, schools, parks, residential areas and city entrances.

Baird said the ordinace was adopted only after public hearings in front of the City Council. The ordinance was drawn from restrictions adopted in other cities, which have been upheld through the courts.

Mooney accused the city of using the force of a sledge hammer to swat a mosquito in attempts to legislate sexually oriented businesses out of town. He said the "overkill and intimidation" of the city's ordinance could lead to the issue being argued in front of the Supreme Court.