Columbus--The Ohio legislature is considering a bill to impose further restrictions on what it refers to as �adult businesses.�
Among other things, the bill reinstates definitions regarding the establishments. It clarifies what the terms �nude� and �semi-nude� mean, and would reintroduce the �six-foot rule� keeping dancers six feet away from customers, prohibit patrons from directly tipping strippers and further regulate video booths in adult bookstores.
The House bill was introduced by State Rep. Linda Reidelbach, a staunchly religious Republican representing part of Columbus.
The bill, which passed the state House of Representatives as H.B. 23 on April 27, was introduced in the state Senate as S.B. 27 on January 27 and is currently in the State and Local Government and Veterans� Affairs Committee.
Reidelbach�s office did not return calls for comment on the bill.
However, she is not the power behind the measure. That distinction goes to Citizens for Community Values, the Sharonville group that backed the state marriage ban amendment passed last fall as Issue 1. They also campaigned for Cincinnati�s anti-gay Article 12, both to pass it in 1993 and against its successful repeal in November.
Phil Burress, CCV�s leader, told Cleveland�s Free Times last year that the bill would close half the strip clubs in Ohio, noting, �It goes exactly as far as we want it to go.�
Eleven Democrats and 29 Republicans are co-sponsoring the legislation. Among these is State Rep. Dale Miller (D) of Cleveland, a gay civil rights supporter who is seldom associated with sex-negative bills pushed by the religious right.
When contacted about the measure, Miller expressed surprise that the Gay People�s Chronicle was doing a story on it.
�I didn�t think it was a gay rights issue,� Miller said.
He explained that his support of the legislation stems from his time as a Cleveland City Council member, when his ward included a strip of adult clubs.
�I had a lot of problems with these facilities along Brookpark Road,� he said, �and I thought giving local governments some power to regulate these was appropriate.�
The bill goes further than that, giving much regulation to the state while allowing local governments to enforce additional regulations.
It would also close �adult businesses� between 11 pm and 10 am, except if they hold liquor licenses. Even in those cases, however, no �adult entertainment� could be held between those hours.
John Barlock, co-owner of the gay Longevity strip club in Cleveland, was dumbstruck.
�This is America,� he insisted. �Where is our freedom? I just don�t understand it. It�s just a bunch of people pushing their beliefs.�
While the legislature claims they want to curb the �secondary effects� of such businesses, namely prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases, Barlock notes that he does not tolerate solicitation at his bar.
�All they�re doing is taking another group of people and hurting their income,� he said. �I run a clean bar and don�t allow prostitution. These people are trying to make it out as something it isn�t.�
Barlock may not have much to worry about, if the 2004 legislative session is any indication. Last year, the House passed the bill unanimously, but it then died in the Senate. Over three months after being introduced in the Senate this year, it still sits in committee.
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