In a major victory for decency advocates, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to a bill establishing new restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. The legislation is designed to protect communities from the adverse secondary effects of businesses marketing sexually oriented materials and "entertainment."
The Senate adopted by an overwhelming 29-2 vote a substitute bill combining measures introduced by Senators Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit and Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon.
Missouri's current laws regulating strip clubs and sex shops are nearly nonexistent, exceedingly weak, and have not been appreciably changed since 1993. In the intervening years, the sex industry has exploded in Missouri, with strip clubs and "adult" video stores and arcades attempting to glamorize and normalize their operation along rural interstate highways and in urban commercial corridors.
Yet these businesses have continued to be a gathering place for sexual encounters, drug trafficking, and other illegal activities. The problem is particularly pervasive in rural counties which lack planning and zoning authority to regulate such businesses.
The U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that communities cannot prohibit the sale or distribution of pornographic materials that are not obscene. In many communities, according to what the court has described as "contemporary community standards," that means most sexually explicit material is legally available.
Yet federal courts have made clear that states and local governments can regulate sexually oriented businesses to discourage adverse community impacts. Such impacts include personal and property crimes, the spread of disease, illicit drug use, prostitution, and urban blight.
The following Senators voted for Senate Substitute for Senate Bills 586 and 617:
Senators Barnitz, Bartle, Bray, Callahan, Champion, Crowell, Cunningham, Days, Dempsey, Engler, Goodman, Griesheimer,
Keaveny, Lager, Lembke, Mayer, McKenna, Nodler, Pearce, Purgason, Ridgeway, Rupp, Schaefer, Scott, Shields, Shoemyer, Stouffer, Wilson, and Wright-Jones
The following Senators voted against SS for SBS 586 & 617:
Senators Green and Justus