ABC reform bill becomes law 05/04/01
GLAA to Council and Mayor: Don't Give In to Puritanical Hysteria (The Washington Post) 01/13/01
Summersgill exposes silly and unnecessary proposed ABC regsGay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PO Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013
Testimony on the Proposed Alcoholic Beverages Regulations
Delivered before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
December 18, 2002
Good afternoon, Commissioners and fellow citizens.
My name is Bob Summersgill. I am President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the country.
I will be restricting my comments to section 905, Prohibited Conduct on Licensed Premises. The section states:
"No holder of an alcoholic beverage license shall require or permit any entertainer, employee, customer, or other person to do any of the following on its premises:
"(a) Perform or simulate the performance of acts of oral, anal, or vaginal sexual intercourse, masturbation, flagellation, or bestiality; or
"(b) Fondle the breasts, buttocks, anus, or genitals of any other person."
By prohibiting simulated performances of various sexually-oriented activities, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board is attempting to expand law into areas unintended and unwanted by the DC Council. Additionally, the section is unconstitutional on its face. Restricting what entertainers may or may not do is exactly the sort of thing that the First Amendment of the US Constitution was designed to protect.
Most of our major theaters have liquor licenses and offer beer or wine along with other concessions. However few plays performed today would be able to adhere to the requirements of section 905. This puts the proposed regulation and the ABC Board squarely in violation of the First Amendment.
The Studio Theater is currently showing "The Shape of Things," an intriguing and compelling play that keeps the audience on edge. There is a scene in which the lead characters simulate both oral and vaginal sex under a sheet. The scene is integral to the play. However, they could be shut down mid-performance by violating Section 905. Nothing in these scenes raises an eyebrow in audience, and nothing in it is in anyway illegal under DC law, although the rest of the show is very disturbing and thought provoking.
The Studio Theater's second stage, are showing the farcical "Bat Boy the Musical" celebrating the tabloid news accounts of the half-boy half-bat creature. The show is a delight, but would again have the theater shut down and cause the loss of their liquor license for simulated acts of anal sex, vaginal intercourse, two separate scenes with bestiality, and fondling of buttocks. Again, these scenes are integral to the show and cause for closing the theater. The nudity in the show is of course completely acceptable under both the law and the regulations.
The Landsburg Shakespeare Theater is showing "Much Ado About Nothing," an apt title for section 905. The two buttock fondlings would close the theater, despite Shakespeare's work otherwise surviving for four centuries.
The Source Theater has the aptly titled "Naked Boys Singing," which other than the caveat that they are all adults, is exactly what it sounds like. Again, the nudity is perfectly legal, as well as "Jack's Song" with the catchy refrain "I beat my meat." However, one innocuous caress of a buttock, or the false modesty of hands covering the genitals would close the show.
I have not seen "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," at the Arena Stage, or anywhere else, but their recently opened production of "South Pacific" is unlikely to cause a violation of Section 905. It is of course a show about tolerating differences, a point that the First Amendment is designed to protect.
The National Theater is showing "Les Miserables," a terrific musical full of prostitutes, which true to any Victor Hugo story, leaves much of the cast dead in the second act. Violence is of course, perfectly acceptable under the regulations.
The regulation prohibiting flagellation would ban plays which depict slavery, Vikings, Romans, and certain aspects of the Catholic Church.
The prohibition on actions by entertainers could liberally interpreted to include those on film or video. At least two of our movie theaters have liquor licenses, Visions Cinema and Bistro Lounge, and Mazza Club Cinema. Either could be shut down for showing even G-rated films.
In fact, to keep with the holiday season, even the classic "Miracle on 34th Street" which my Grandmother watched being filmed, would close the theaters because Santa Claus whips the reindeer on his float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Considering that fondling of various body parts are common to music videos, those will now be necessarily be banned from bars and night clubs. This puts every bar and restaurant with a TV on at the bar in jeopardy of an ABC inspector just looking for an excuse to close them down.
Obviously these examples are extreme, and unintended by the DC Council and probably by the ABC Board; however, only through selective enforcement could the theaters be exempted. All of this creates a chilling effect on our theaters and entertainment.
These regulations are supposed to implement the new ABC law. Section 905 cannot be related to any section or provision of the law. This is simply an unconstitutional regulation inserted by the ABC Board over the unanimous objection of the task force which drafted the regulations and the DC Councilmembers which have already voiced their objections to this section.
The job of the ABC board is to regulate the sale of alcohol, not enforce your own code of morality. We already have laws such as Section 22-1312 Lewd, Indecent or Obscene Acts, Section 22-2201 Certain Obscene Activities and Conduct Declared Unlawful, Section 22-2713 Prostitution, Pandering, and Section 22-3101 Sexual Performance Using Minors, which more than adequately serve the purpose of regulating public and commercial sex.
Unconstitutional regulations will not stand. If you do not remove it, members of the DC Council have assured us that they will. You should simply take the appropriate action and remove it now.
Thank you. I am available to answer any questions that you may have.