Of all the bills passed in the Louisiana legislature’s regular session this spring, the one which most irritated us for its unbridled nanny-state stupidity and disregard of constitutional rights was the “Stripper Bill,” which purported to make it illegal for women under 21 to dance onstage at a strip club.
This was the bill which occasioned Rep. Kenny Havard to offer a poison-pill amendment imposing a maximum age and a weight limit for strippers, perhaps in the name of consumer protection, only to find himself beset by angry female legislators offended by the sexism of his proposal. The fact Havard was offering absurdity as an amendment in order to illustrate the absurdity of the bill never seemed to cross the mind of Rep. Julie Stokes and others who huffed about the male chauvinist pigs in her midst, and when the smoke had cleared the bill had passed with no opposition at all.
There is zero reason to believe that a bill making a criminal out of a 20-year old stripper trying to pay her way through nursing school or finishing a degree in marine biology will have any positive effect in cutting down on human trafficking, which is its stated purpose. This is pure nanny-state garbage, and naturally in a supposedly conservative Republican legislature made up of politicians who took great pains to tout their credentials as advocates of smaller, less intrusive government there isn’t a single legislator either in the House or Senate with the sand to stand up and vote against it.
Not one. Not even Havard, who pulled his amendment after he got bitched out for it. And then voted for the bill along with everyone else.
Your author spends zero time in strip bars, as spending an expensive evening buying overpriced drinks, listening to bad music and being sexually titillated by people with whom there will be no sex seems like a much more time-intensive fiscal option than setting a pile of small bills on fire. That having been said, if we’re to put the state in charge of regulating who can be a stripper, the only difference between the bill and his amendment is whose tastes are being satisfied.
And frankly, if you ask the consumer, they’d probably tell you they like Havard’s amendment just fine. It would make for a major step up in the performance of the industry around the state.
Kenny Havard deserves criticism, but not for what you think. What he deserves criticism for was for pulling his amendment, that he said was a joke, which would restrict the eligibility to work as a stripper to people between the ages of 21 and 28 and weighing less than 160 pounds.
Was Havard’s amendment sexist? Who cares whether it was? It was an absurdity, as is the bill. A poison pill amendment such as his was is intended as an absurdity.
Havard chickened out of a fight that was worth having. He voiced concerns about overregulation, and those concerns were correct, but when Rep. Nancy Landry asked him “Don’t you think this amendment is offensive?” he pulled it.
What he should have said was “This entire bill, this entire debate, is offensive. Either stripping is a legal profession or it’s not. You people want to make it illegal, then fine – at least bring that bill and we’ll have an honest debate about the subject. But if you want to pass this nanny-state garbage of a bill then you’re going to explain to me why my absurd amendment that some of the losers sitting in strip bars across the state would probably say is a GREAT idea is offensive, while your idea that a 20-year old who is currently dancing in a strip club because it’s a legal way for her to make a living and will be denied that job, is not.”
And then he could say “I’m not here to make friends and I’m not here to win a popularity contest. I am here to legislate responsibly, and that does NOT include making arbitrary, nonsense rules about how people may live their lives. And if that offends your sensibilities then I’m sorry – but I didn’t bring this stupid bill. Somebody else did. You want to have fewer hurt feelings, fine. Let’s have a better commitment not to clutter this place up with a bunch of legislation that makes people feel better but wastes our time.”
We also said we’d happily raise money to help a plaintiff in the inevitable lawsuit over this bill. It was inevitable that there would be someone negatively affected by a bill which says that you might be legal as a 20-year old stripper in June, but you’re illegal as a 20-year old stripper in July – and then legal again as a stripper when you turn 21 in August, and no judge would look at such a stupid result and not find it needlessly infringes on a constitutional right.
But it turns out we might not have to engage in any fundraising, because the lawsuits are tumbling forth…
Three strip club dancers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge are suing to halt a statewide ban against strippers younger than 21, saying the ban infringes on their constitutional right to free speech, due process and equal protection.
The lawsuit was filed in New Orleans federal court on Thursday, about a week ahead of the ban’s effective date of Oct. 1.
The erotic dancers, who are not named in the suit, are suing Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard, whose office is charged with enforcing the ban.
The suit says the dancers have a right to express themselves through erotic dance under the state and federal constitutions.
Also, it says, the ban is too broad and as written would apply to live theater performances and other instances, not just strip clubs. It’s also unconstitutionally vague because it fails to clarify its ban on “exposure” of the breasts or buttocks, the suit says.
Further, the dancers say, the state law discriminates against them solely on the basis of their age, which they say is not rational, as “there is no evidence that the act’s age restrictions will have any impact on human trafficking.” The ban also discriminates based on gender because it applies only to women who perform topless, not to men, according to the suit.
Just so. And the plaintiffs are more or less exactly who we thought they’d be…
Jane Doe I, a 20-year-old dancer from New Orleans, had to work up to 120 hours per week in retail jobs to help pay her bills and care for her disabled mother before she began stripping, according to the suit filed by attorney Harry Rosenberg. It says she now strips and can set her own work schedule.
Another plaintiff, an unnamed 18-year-old from Baton Rouge, lives on her own after both her parents died of cancer, the suit says. Because of the ban, which the suit says took effect at her club in August, she now works as a “shot girl” — a server who walks through a club offering drinks. But her income has been cut by more than half since she stopped stripping, it says.
The third former dancer, a 19-year-old New Orleanian, used the money she made stripping to care for her 1-year-old daughter, the suit says.
The plaintiffs know other dancers who have been approached by pimps or who are considering prostitution to make up for the income they are losing as a result of the ban, the suit says.
All we can say is we told you so. Those suits will be successful and the bill is going to be tossed out by the courts, as it should be. And maybe, just maybe, the clowns in the state legislature will take a lesson from this and stop passing so many stupid nanny-state bills out of fear that voting against them will make for mean direct-mail pieces by their opponents in the next election.