Sexy Billboard Ban Declared Unconstitutional

Michael Hayes
ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court has struck down a two-year-old law banning sexually suggestive billboards along Missouri highways.

Calling the ban an unconstitutional regulation of commercial speech, a three-judge panel for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a consortium of adult retail stores and strip clubs that joined forces to sue state Attorney General Jay Nixon from enforcing the law.

Passions Video, the Lion’s Den and 10 John Haltom-owned stores brought suit against the state along with a Kansas City strip club owned by Gala Entertainment.

According to the ruling, the law failed because it was not “narrowly drawn” to meet its stated goals of reducing the possibly negative effects that sexually suggestive billboards could pose, including harming minors, reducing traffic safety and dropping property values.

The state “failed to make a showing that more limited speech regulation would not have adequately served the state’s interest,” the panel said.

The law would have required advertisers using sexually explicit material on their billboards to phase out the offensive ads by mid-2007. Eventually, under the law, adult retail stores and strip clubs would be allowed only two highway signs — one showing the business’ name and operating hours, the other saying the adult-oriented business is off-limits to minor.

The ruling overturns a U.S. District Court ruling from earlier this year, which upheld the law as constitutional.

State Sen. Matt Bartle pushed the legislation, which he modeled after a similar New Jersey statute. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld that statute.

According to AP reports, the state has not said whether it will file an appeal to the court’s ruling.