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Archive for Saturday, December 3, 2005

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against sex-shop ordinance

December 3, 2005

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— Pornography opponents have won a round in their ongoing legal battle against sexually oriented businesses in Kansas because a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against a Dickinson County ordinance regulating such shops.

The county enacted its ordinance last year, and the owner of a Lion's Den Adult Superstore near Abilene went to court, hoping to have the rule declared unconstitutional. The store opened along Interstate 70 east of Abilene in 2003.

In an order issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum concluded that Dickinson County had a compelling interest in combatting the potential effects of sexually oriented businesses, such as lower property values or increased crime.

Phillip Cosby, an Abilene resident who has organized efforts against stores that sell sexually explicit magazines, videos and DVDs and sex toys in his hometown and 10 other Kansas cities, said Friday that the ruling should encourage communities to approve their own zoning ordinances.

"It's huge," he said. "Man, I couldn't be happier."

The store's attorney, John Michael Murray, of Cleveland, Ohio, didn't immediately return a phone message left at his office.

The Dickinson County ordinance prevents sexually oriented businesses from being within 1,200 feet of an interstate and requires them to close between midnight and 6 a.m.

Lungstrum said other courts have upheld similar ordinances, rejecting claims that they suppress free expression. The judge wrote that sexually oriented businesses still could open at 10 other designated sites. Instead of suppressing expression, he wrote, the ordinance makes some areas available for such stores while "preserving the quality of life in the community at large."

"This, after all, is the essence of zoning," Lungstrum wrote.

The ordinance was just one attempt to combat sexually oriented businesses.

At Cosby's urging, a legislative committee recently endorsed imposing a 10 percent tax on the products and services sold by such businesses.

On Tuesday, a grand jury in Wichita indicated a Priscilla's store there and its owner on one misdemeanor count of promoting obscenity after thousands of citizens signed a petition demanding an investigation of such stores.

Anti-pornography activists have lost some battles. In September, a state district judge dismissed 10 misdemeanor obscenity charges against the Abilene store, saying the state's anti-obscenity law is flawed. Cosby and church groups also failed to get a grand jury to indict two Salina stores, Behind Closed Doors and Priscilla's.

Such setbacks haven't deterred Cosby, however.

"There is nothing I won't throw at them," he said. "If I could throw a kitchen sink, I would."

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