COLUMBUS - The hammer fell yesterday on strip clubs and other adult businesses after their repeal effort fell well short of qualifying for the Ohio ballot.
Opponents of a law restricting their operations immediately challenged its constitutionality in federal court and hoped to exploit a timing issue to resurrect the ballot issue in a filing before the Ohio Supreme Court.
But there was no immediate court intervention preventing the law from taking effect. Strip clubs, adult book and video stores, X-rated theaters, and other "sexually oriented businesses" were expected to close their doors at midnight and keep them closed until 6 a.m.
Strip clubs with liquor permits allowing them to stay open until 2 a.m. were required to cease all fully nude performances during those extra two hours. And nude performers and club patrons now face tougher criminal penalties if they come into direct contact with one another.
"As we've said from the beginning, this law is unnecessary and unconstitutional," said Luke Liakos, president of the Buckeye Association of Club Executives. "It's un-American to limit free speech just because it offends the moral code of a small but noisy group of censors."
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner officially notified the Vote No on Issue 1 committee that it fell nearly 60,000 signatures short of the minimum 241,366 needed to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot. The petition effort was plagued by outright errors, suspected fraud, and apparent election law violations.
The repeal question already appears on absentee ballots and could appear on some already-printed ballots, but any votes cast will not be counted.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio has raised concerns about the ability of local police to enforce the law. "The FOP always has concerns about the adequacy of staffing and the allocation of resources in all our constituent communities. If that bill becomes law, it just adds to those concerns," said Mark Drum, the FOP's legislative chairman and state treasurer.
The Cincinnati-based organization that used the petition process to put the bill before legislators said it understands police have to prioritize. "We're not asking that every law enforcement agency place my priority at the top of their list," David Miller of Citizens for Community Values said. "We don't think we have any right to demand that, but the citizens who elect them or elect their employers, they have the right to tell [them] what their priorities are."
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