Federal judge blocks law that changes age requirement for exotic dancers in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - A federal judge has ruled in favor of exotic dancers who are trying to stop the law that sets age requirements for nude dancers in nightclubs that serve alcohol.

On Wednesday, US District Court Judge Carl Barbier granted a motion for a preliminary injunction, which was filed on behalf of the dancers. That means the state cannot enforce a law that would require exotic dancers to be 21 years or older to work in Louisiana.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill released the following statement:

We believe the law, unanimously passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, is a reasonable, content neutral restriction that was clearly related to legitimate governmental Interest in protecting 18-21 year olds from exploitation. We do not believe the law, once again unanimously passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, is vague or overbroad and we intend to appeal the ruling and work with the legislature, if necessary, to amend it.

Harry Rosenberg, the lead attorney for the dancers, also released a statement:

The dancers are extremely pleased that the federal court granted today their request for injunctive relief. This means that during the injunction neither the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control nor any other state agency can prevent 18 to 20 year old women from exercising their constitutional rights and that they can continue to perform as they had hoped. The federal court concluded that irreparable harm would occur if an injunction was not issued, the plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success, and therefore the Court enjoined enforcement by any state actor regarding what is known as Act 395 - the law curtailing the rights of 18 to 20 year old women in this State. Notably, the federal court stated that it takes seriously a violation of First Amendment rights.

Three women, including two from Baton Rouge, filed a lawsuit stating that the law is unconstitutional to require dancers to be over the age of 21.

"This is government overreach and it's a classic example," said state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson.

Havard, who came under fire last year for proposing an amendment to the bill to include a weight limit as well, said he wants to be clear that his measure was not meant to degrade women, but rather, drive home his point that government overreach, such as this law, has become a big problem in Louisiana.

"I'm regretful that it offended some people, but that wasn't the case. I was trying to make the point that government overreach has run amuck," Havard added.

Murrill said she is willing to work with the legislature to amend the measure, if necessary, in order to protect young girls from exploitation. It is something Havard said he would support, but believes there has got to be a better way than the current law.

"Human trafficking is a horrible issue in this state and we need to address it. I just don't think that was the piece of legislation to do so," Havard explained. 
The new law was supposed to begin being enforced on October 1, 2016. The law was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards on June 5, 2016.

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