JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville law requiring strip-club dancers to have police-issued identification is unconstitutional because it gives the Sheriff’s Office too much control over who can dance, a federal judge has decided.
“If Jacksonville seeks to impose a licensing requirement for performers at adult entertainment establishments, the licensing procedure must adhere to each of the requirements that the Supreme Court has laid out. The ordinance’s licensing provisions do not,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan wrote in an order striking down a system of identity cards the City Council approved last year.
The cards were part of an ordinance written to discourage human trafficking in strip clubs, but within weeks 13 adult businesses and four dancers sued the city.
They argued the cards could become, in effect, work permits that could be given or withheld arbitrarily because the city hadn’t set clear rules.
Corrigan agreed, saying the ordinance let a sheriff decide applications for the cards “however he or she chooses.”
Because courts consider dancing, even in a strip club, to be a type of expression protected by free-speech rights, the judge said that was too much power over a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“This is expressly prohibited by … [a] long line of prior restraint cases,” Corrigan wrote Monday in a ruling that also found the ordinance violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
The judge said the ordinance would have also let a sheriff collect applications without ever approving or rejecting them, a sort of pocket veto with no way to appeal.
The judge also rejected requirements in the ordinance for dancers to be fingerprinted and prove they’re legally eligible to work.
The 59-page ruling left parts of the strip clubs’ lawsuit unsettled, including a challenge to language that banned anyone under age 21 from dancing at the clubs. Eighteen is the standard cutoff elsewhere in Florida.
During a non-jury trial on part of the lawsuit in September, lawyers for the city and the clubs told the judge they didn’t know of any Florida counties that required dancers to be older than 18, but Corrigan wrote that the subject “needs more development.”
He said the lawyers could file briefs on the subject when they address the rest of the lawsuit, which had been split in two to hear arguments for the clubs’ requests for an injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinance.
He wrote this week that while the city couldn’t enforce the areas he had found unconstitutional, the rest of the ordinance would stay in place while the case continued.