One of the more interesting constitutional cases is developing in Austin Texas where strip clubs are contesting a $5 fee placed on their customers by the state. State sponsors insist that they are only trying to raise money to help women who are victims of crimes and that the clubs employ many women. However, it is unclear why other businesses with high percentage of women employees are not also singled out for the tax.
There are 151 businesses in Texas that offer live nude entertainment and serve alcohol. They are the targets of the fee and the plaintiffs — the Texas Entertainment Association (a group of adult cabaret businesses) and Karpod Inc. (which owns an Amarillo club) — argue that the fee unconstitutionally restricts free speech activities.
Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, author of the bill, insists that “This is an industry that largely employs women. It’s an opportunity to do something for crimes that largely affect women.” However, the question is why she has not targeted other industries with high numbers of women employs from restaurants to retail stores to beauty salons. The legislation seems too clever by half.
Not surprisingly, Attorney General Greg Abbott supports the legislation. It is hard to be viewed as supporting strip joints in any state. However, the Constitution is not needed to protect popular businesses and individuals. It would be refreshing to find one elected official who is willing to say that he or she cannot support the targeting of such insular groups. Yet, this is why the Framers gave life tenure to federal judges to protect them from political pressures and considerations.
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