We have previously discussed efforts of politicians to add costs or otherwise harass owners and customers of strip joints for moral, social, or political reasons. Both feminists and religious right advocates have targeted the businesses. The latest such effort is being spearheaded by Pennsylvania state Rep. Matthew Baker, R-Tioga, who admits that he has introduced a new draconian measure to respond to faith-based groups. His bill would force strippers to register with the state, ban alcohol in strip joints and create a buffer zone between dancers and patrons (effectively barring “lap dances.”).
The bill is being justified as a way “to help combat sex trafficking, abuse and exploitation of women.” However, sex trafficking and sexual abuse are crimes that are already prosecuted under other laws. There is a question nexus between these prohibitions and those crimes. The law seems transparently designed to harass this business out of moral opposition from faith-based groups. As such it raises some difficult constitutional questions in the singling out of this industry. The law also raises serious privacy issues for this industry in forcing such registration — a requirement that is not imposed on the vast array of other businesses. Indeed, this is an area where adults want and expect that greatest level of privacy in exercising their individual lifestyle choices. Both dancers and customers are adults who are making lawful and consensual choices.
Under the proposed law, adult-orientated clubs would pay $300 to register with the state and would have to list business partners, as well as corporate officers and directors. It would also force disclosure of anybody with “an influential interest” in the establishment previously convicted of a crime.
Baker previously attracted national attention by using his Chairmanship of a key committee to block a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. His latest effort to impose restrictions on those working or going to strip joints has been pulled back for “more work.” The poorly written and ill-conceived law however is expected to be reintroduced.