ACLU urges Council to stand firm on ABC Bill
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ACLU urges Council to stand firm on ABC Bill

Go to ACLU Press Release

American Civil Liberties Union
of the National Capital Area

1400 - 20th Street, N.W., Suite 119
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone 202-457-0800

January 16, 2001

The Honorable Linda W. Cropp, Chair
Council of the District of Columbia
Washington, D.C. 20001

By Messenger
Re: Bill 13-449 and Nude Dancing

Dear Chairwoman Cropp:

Your colleague, Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, the sponsor of Bill 13-449, got it exactly right. She is quoted in the Washington Post of January 11th as saying: "An enlightened municipality doesn't prohibit it; it regulates [nude dancing]."

After having developed a regulatory system strongly weighted against giving licenses to establishments that feature nude dancing, and unanimously adopting the bill on December 19, 2000, the Council reportedly is now getting cold feet. The Council did not err when it revoked the moratorium on licensing nude dancing establishments. You reportedly told the Post, "There was never an intent to enable great proliferation of those clubs." Bill 13-449 struck the right balance between protecting neighborhoods and community values while avoiding having the government prescribe entertainment standards for adults. Why then is there talk of revisiting this bill?

Undoubtedly, there are concerns about turning residential areas into red light/crime infested districts. In utter disregard of the bill's extensive protections, such fears have been amplified to frighten the public. Rather than give in to these scare tactics, the Council needs to educate the public about what it has done, and what is not going to happen as a result.

Also strongly at play here is the right of the District of Columbia to govern itself. At some point, the Council has to stand up to threats from the Congress. As is often the case, members of Congress seek to impose restrictions on the District that they are not able to impose on their home districts. While one could argue that nude dancing is not worth a fight with Congress, the reverse is the case. This matter does not affect the financial stability or other matter of legitimate concern to the Congress. We should not be bullied by members of Congress who are clearly overstepping. The Council must insist on home rule here.

Bill 13-449 as adopted should be expeditiously sent to the Mayor for his signature. And for the reasons offered here, we trust that he will not hesitate to sign it.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mary Jane DeFrank
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area

cc: The Honorable Anthony Williams, Mayor
The Media


American Civil Liberties Union
of the National Capital Area

1400 - 20th Street, N.W., Suite 119
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone 202-457-0800

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2001

For more information, contact:
Mary Jane DeFrank (Executive Director)
Stephen M. Block (Legislative Counsel)

Lifting the Moratorium on Nude Dancing-
D.C. Council's ReConsideration of Bill 13-449

As the result of scare tactics by those opposed to nude dancing as a form of adult entertainment, the Council of the District of Columbia reportedly is going to revisit its decision to lift the moratorium on licensing establishments that feature nude dancing. In addition, it also appears that some members of Congress, intent on forcing their judgment on councilmembers, are also weighing in to oppose lifting the moratorium.

The ACLU views this issue as simply one of freedom of choice and expression. We believe members of the Council should resist this latest effort to undermine home rule.

If a person does not wish to see nude dancing, no one is forcing him or her to enter such an establishment. No one should impose his or her own personal tastes on others, and certainly not Congress-a body in which we have no voting representation. Adult entertainment (movies, books, etc.) is a legal multi-billion-dollar industry, representing the personal taste of millions of Americans-despite the effort of some would-be nannies of personal taste to ban it. The current reaction to limited nude dancing is another effort at censorship.

Opponents cloak their censorship in public safety, but the answer to their complaints is to arrest those people who engage in illegal activity, not close legal businesses.

The ACLU has written to all the councilmembers urging them not to acquiesce to pressure by Congress and not to retreat from their approval of Bill 13-449, which institutes a regime of strict controls, while authorizing limited licensing of nude dancing establishments. A copy of the letter addressed to Linda Cropp, Chair of the D.C. Council, follows for your information.

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