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Tips for Successfully Regulating Sexually Oriented Businesses

David A. Thomas

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

July, 29 2008

Probate & Property, Vol. 22, pp. 43-46, January/February 2008

This article reviews the current legal rules and techniques for a balanced and successful legal regime for regulating sexually oriented businesses. It begins by looking at social and constitutional issues generated by sexually oriented businesses, followed by a discussion of legal bases for successful regulating and two permissive forms of regulation (zoning and licensing). Nine key points in evaluating regulations of sexually oriented businesses are listed, followed by a sampling of five recent cases (from Connecticut, Kentucky and Utah).

Most attempts to regulate sexually oriented businesses are made at the local government level, and these attempts seldom seek to directly ban or prohibit such businesses. To do that requires a ruling that the business falls wholly into the category of obscene conduct, without First Amendment protection. Instead, cities and counties prefer to regulate the ways such businesses operate, with ordinances imposing so-called time, place and manner restrictions. These regulations are usually upheld as legitimate attempts to minimize the adverse secondary effects of such businesses, such as blight, crime and sexual misconduct. Successful ordinances are carefully drafted to identify specific secondary effects that are targeted, relate the restrictions to those targeted effects, avoid vagueness and over-breadth, and ensure adequate alternative means for that type of communication. Although some ordinances regulating sexually oriented businesses continue to be successfully challenged, careful drafting can forestall almost all litigation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 4

Keywords: Sexually oriented businesses, First Amendment, freedom of expression, conduct, municipal law, ordinances, strict scrutiny, obscenity, indecency, pornography, zoning laws, commercial law

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Date posted: July 30, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Thomas, David A., Tips for Successfully Regulating Sexually Oriented Businesses (July, 29 2008). Probate & Property, Vol. 22, pp. 43-46, January/February 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1185863

Contact Information

David A. Thomas (Contact Author)
Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )
430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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