Kansas Billboard Ban Sparks 1st Amendment Debate

Matt O'Conner
TOPEKA, Kan. — State officials have been turning the screws on adult businesses for the past two years. Now lawmakers are pushing a bill that would ban billboards promoting adult stores and products along state roads and place restrictions on signs outside stores that are located near highways.

As XBiz reported, the Kansas House of Representatives already is considering another bill that would levy a 25 percent tax on products sold at adult-oriented businesses.

Both bills are part of a larger coordinated effort between legislators, the state Attorney General, district attorneys and citizens groups to make it difficult for adult stores to conduct business in the state.

Last summer, at the urging of a group called Operation Southwind, the Wichita City Council placed new zoning restrictions on adult businesses intended to make it impossible for eight of the city’s 15 adult retail stores to continue operating legally. Stores were given two years to comply, move or close altogether. Other cities also have passed similar measures.

A Priscilla’s store in Wichita is currently under indictment thanks to a petition drive spearheaded by Operation Southwind, and an Abilene Lion’s Den store recently won an obscenity case that dragged on for two years.

Operation Southwind also is undertaking a second petition drive force the formation of a grand jury to review inventory at and potentially charge nine adult stores. Businesses targeted in the latest petition drive seeking a grand jury are Circle Cinema, Frolix, Party Store, Vegas Video, Video Adventures, Xcitement Video, two After Dark Video locations and a second Priscilla’s store.

Phillip Cosby, head of a group called Citizens for Community Values, is organizing similar efforts in a dozen Kansas towns.

While adult industry lawyers admit such efforts are a nuisance, they also say none are likely to hold up in court.

“Oh, make me some money. I'm loving it,” Priscilla’s lawyer Steve Joseph told the Wichita Eagle.