The Supreme Court of Missouri has rejected a constitutional challenge to a 2010 law that put strict limits on the way businesses like strip clubs and adult bookstores can operate in the state.
In a unanimous opinion released today, the court rejected arguments that the law violated First Amendment rights and that supporters had not followed legislative procedures outlined in the state Constitution. The courts struck down a similar bill in 2005 and 2006 on the grounds that it changed too much throughout the legislative process.
Among other things, the law bans nude dancing in public, prohibits the sale of alcohol in sexually-oriented businesses, and requires them to close between midnight and 6 a.m. The owners of several sexually-oriented businesses sued, saying the measure was a content-based restriction in violation of the First Amendment, and that legislators had not properly considered the cost of the law.
The judges disagreed. Laura Denvir Stith, writing for the seven justices, said "this court finds that the restrictions are not content-based limitations on speech but are rather aimed at limiting the negative secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses on the health, welfare and safety of Missouri residents."
In response to the fiscal note argument, Stith wrote:
"This Court also rejects the argument that any failure to follow statutory procedures governing preparation of a fiscal note amounts to a failure to follow the Missouri Constitution and thereby voids the legislation. The Missouri Constitution does not require fiscal notes or address how they should be prepared."
Attorney General Chris Koster (D) defended the law before the state's High Court.
“The legislature made a decision that these businesses can do everything from corrupt (moral) values to corrupt property values, and the restrictions should be placed upon them," Koster said. "I’m pleased that the unanimous court upheld our position, and has allowed (this statute) to stand.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs says they'll appeal today's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.