Oregon Court Overturns Sex Show Laws

The Oregon Supreme Court today rules that live sex shows and nude dancers touching customers are both forms of free expression protected by the state constitution.

Oregon Court overturns sex-show laws (AP)

The Oregon Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Thursday a state law against live sex shows and a local ordinance that says nude dancers must stay at least 4 feet away from patrons. Both restrictions violate the Oregon Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, the court said in a pair of 5-1 decisions.

Justice Michael Gillette, writing for the majority, said it “appears to us to be beyond reasonable dispute that the protection extends to the kinds of expression that a majority of citizens in many communities would dislike” – including nude dancing.

One case involved a Roseburg club where undercover police paid women to perform sexual activities while the officers watched. The court threw out the club owner’s conviction for promoting a live sex show but upheld his conviction for promoting prostitution.

In a dissent, Supreme Court Justice Paul De Muniz said he could not conclude that “masturbation and sexual intercourse in a `live public show'” is a form of speech that the drafters of the Oregon Constitution sought to protect.

One suspects Muniz is correct. Still, it’s difficult to see what harm is taking place in these clubs, presuming that the customers and performers are consenting adults.

FILED UNDER: Supreme Court, Uncategorized, US Constitution, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    There was a time when community standards were a good reason to disallow this trash. Apparently those community standards have fallen quite low!

    With courts approving this stuff it’s no wonder marriages fall apart, kids think oral sex is not sex, and what was once considered reserved for marriage and special is now officially open season for reducing people to their lowest common denominator. No wonder we are so willing to murder our own children and call it choice.

  2. McGehee says:

    Well, it’s not as if “speech” means speech anymore anyway.

  3. Anderson says:

    Right, guys. People would all be angels, if only the government made it illegal not to be.

    Wait, I thought I was at a conservative blog?

  4. Richard Gardner says:

    Hmmm, Oregon and Portland is 2 hours away – LOL. Anyway, Oregon (or at least Portland) has so many strip clubs already (full nudity too) that there are 2 competing alternative papers just covering the “happenings” at these clubs. We are talking big business. Or at least it is more in the open in Portland than the rest of the country.

    Maybe the “refugees” from the clubs in New Orleans can find employment in Oregon – have to think up a catchy slogan, like Bourbon Street with moss. (vice the real New Orleans with mold)

  5. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Good show, what’s next? See what happens when your state is taken over by people from California. The rain drops constantly pounding on their heads has eventually caused damage. They may have lost the ability to reason in Oregon. Liberals will see a backlash from this one I think.

  6. DL says:


    Are you saying that conservatives shouldn’t advance public morals because people will still do evil in private? That sounds just like the other guys!

    I supposse Jesus should have stopped the Apostles from spreading Christianity because Judas sinned publically anyway? Just give it up Peter, and Paul, not everyone is going to listen to you. On the other hand I have a place for those who won’t stop sinning that will take care of that problem!

  7. Anderson says:

    have to think up a catchy slogan, like Bourbon Street with moss.

    Latte Lane? Espresso Avenue?

    DL, like many other Christians, I distinguish between what’s right & what’s legal, what’s God’s and what’s Caesar’s.

    Legalizing consensual vices has pros and cons, but is certainly not the shocker that some of our commenters would have it be. I’m just easily amazed, I guess—the people who ordinarily tell me that gov’t can’t do anything right, suddenly think that it can enforce morals??? Permit me to doubt.

  8. Richard Gardner says:

    I found the relevant section of the Oregon State Constitution quoted in the local paper,

    No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or of restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatsoever [1859]

    There have been 3 ballot measures to regulate the adult entertainment industry in Oregon; all have failed.

  9. Anderson says:

    No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or of restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatsoever [1859]

    Just make sure you’re masturbating onto a photo of the President, and you’re okay.