GALVESTON, Texas — A bill has been introduced in Texas that would raise to 21 the minimum age to work at sexually oriented businesses.
The piece of legislation, which was recently introduced, would effectively restrict employment opportunities for those ages 18-20 and make it illegal for employers to hire them. Currently, the minimum age to work at sexually oriented businesses in Texas is 18.
However, industry attorney Larry Walters of Walters Law Group told XBIZ that he believes preventing young adults from working in a sexually oriented business violates their First Amendment rights.
“When Georgia passed a similar law banning adult business patrons under 21, it was struck down on First Amendment grounds by the Georgia Supreme Court,” said Walters, citing State v. Cafe Erotica Inc., 269 Ga. 486, 500 S.E.2d 574 (1998).
“The state does not have a compelling interest in restricting the employment opportunity of 18-20-year-olds, particularly when the employment involves free expression,” he said.
“While the U.S. Supreme Court has not spoken on the issue, it appears that a governmental attempt to prevent adults from participating in First Amendment protected performances would be unconstitutional.”
Eric Paul Leue, the Free Speech Coalition's executive director, said the adult trade group is currently evaluating the Texas bill “and other disturbing legislation being enacted countrywide that would limit the production and distribution of legally protected speech.”
“Adult entertainment is and should be produced by and for adults, but we object to moralists attempting to restrict what legal jobs adults can take, what products they can purchase or the type of speech they can make,” Leue told XBIZ. “Why is a state so publicly dedicated to limiting government so eager to take away the right of consenting adults to make decisions about their lives, livelihoods and bodies? How would such a law be used to harass and criminalize and already marginalized workforce?
“We would not be surprised to see this law used to silence and harass not only adult performers and producers, but also LGTBQ organizations, sexual education programs and sexual health services.”
“Sexually oriented businesses,” as defined by Texas lawmakers, includes “a sex parlor, nude studio, modeling studio, love parlor, adult bookstore, adult movie theater, adult video arcade, adult movie arcade, adult video store, adult motel or other commercial enterprise the primary business of which is the offering of a service or the selling, renting or exhibiting of devices or any other items intended to provide sexual stimulation or sexual gratification to the customer.”
The definition of sexually oriented businesses also includes adult entertainment conventions, including the one Exxxotica attempted to hold in Dallas last May.
The city of Dallas, which operates the municipal convention center, shut out the exhibitors, claiming actions of lewdness at a previously held event and that Exxxotica was unlicensed as a sexually oriented business.
Shutting out the adult show prompted Exxxotica’s parent company, Three Expo Events, to file a lawsuit for damages. To date, that suit continues at federal court in Dallas.