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Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Adult dancing
ruling has scant
bearing here

Dan Foley says Hawaii's
Supreme Court has a broader
interpretation of free speech
and individuality

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Local attorneys who have fought for the free-speech rights of adult dancing establishments had varying interpretations of the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the constitutionality of a ban on nude dancing.

The justices, by a 6-3 vote, upheld against a free-speech challenge an Erie, Pa., public-indecency ordinance that requires women who work as barroom dancers to wear at least pasties and a G-string when performing.

Civil rights attorney Daniel Foley said that while the higher court addressed the federal constitutionality of nude dancing, it does not resolve the issue on the local level.

On speech, privacy and other issues involving individuality, Foley said, "the Hawaii constitution has consistently been construed more broadly" by the Hawaii Supreme Court than at the federal level.

The federal court, Foley said, would have no bearing on how the Hawaii Supreme Court might interpret the issue.

Attorney Bill Harrison, who has represented several adult night clubs in various matters, said the Supreme Court ruling stated "expressive conduct" can be regulated not based on the conduct itself, but only when other interests are being considered.

For instance, in the Pennsylvania case ruled on by the Supreme Court, the ordinance cited the need for a ban because of the "secondary effects associated with adult entertainment establishments."

Therefore, Harrison said, any bill introduced by either the city or state would need to "show legitimate concern for promotion of criminal activities or have concerns for the negative commercial basis, but they (cannot) ban it just for morality issues or out of the desire to curtail the activity."

Attorney Michael Green, who has represented several adult dancing establishments on constitutional matters, predicted that there will be a bill introduced either at the Honolulu City Council or state Legislature to bar nude dancing.

Green sees the ruling as setting a bad precedent.

"For the court to get involved in this kind of intervention is going to lead to the courts potentially regulating what you can watch on television or see in the movies," he said.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who has successfully introduced legislation curtailing adult entertainment activities, praised the high court's decision.

"This decision supports my efforts to clean up and protect our neighborhoods from increased crime, neighborhood deterioration and other secondary impacts to the community," he said.

However, he said, it's too early to say if he or others will introduce legislation calling for an all-out ban on nude dancing in adult establishments.

"It's worth looking into," he said.

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