UPDATED: Proposed Injunction Challenges Texas’ Controversial Under-21 Stripper Ban

[Update, Thursday 7/15/21, 9:35 p.m.: A previous version of this article published Monday 7/12/21 stated that the preliminary injunction halting S.B. 315 had been granted. The circulated injunction was only a proposal by the lawyers challenging its constitutionality. The hearing to decide on the injunction will happen tomorrow, one of the lawyers confirmed to XBIZ.]

AUSTIN, Texas — A U.S. District Court Judge in Texas is currently considering a proposed preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the recent state law preventing sex workers aged 18-21 from being employed at strip clubs.

The injunction proposal notes that the class-action plaintiffs “have a substantial likelihood of success on their claims that [recent Texas statute] S.B. 315’s age restrictions on employment or work at or with a ‘sexually oriented business’ are unconstitutional.”

The proposal also notes that “plaintiffs have a substantial likelihood of success on their claims under the First Amendment. The challenged amendments to Texas law infringe the individual Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to engage in expression and association for expressive purposes.”

Moreover, the proposal continues, “the age restrictions are not likely to satisfy intermediate scrutiny because they do not further a substantial governmental interest and they are no mere incidental restriction on First Amendment freedoms; they are far greater than is essential to the furtherance of the state’s interests.”

Further, the proposal explains, the age restrictions “violate the overbreadth doctrine because the impermissible applications of the amended laws are substantial when judged in relation to their previously legitimate sweep.”

The proposal further rebukes the legislative overreach by pointing out that “age amendments to Texas laws violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Texas Constitution’s due course of law provision under Article I, § 19. The challenged amendments deprive Plaintiffs and members of the proposed Plaintiff Classes of their occupational liberty interest. The age restrictions are not likely to satisfy rational basis review because they are not rationally related to the state’s asserted interests.”

A preliminary injunction prohibits the enforcement of a law and mandates preserving the status quo while the underlying court case — in this case the class action suit — is decided.

News of the proposed preliminary injunction was first reported yesterday via Twitter by journalist Susan Elizabeth Shepard.

Infantilizing Sex Workers

The lawsuit refers to S.B. 315, one of two Texas bills passed in May by the Republican-majority legislature concerning the employment of workers in “sexually oriented business.”

As XBIZ reported in May, the companion bill (S.B. 766) stated that it relates to “sexually oriented businesses, including a requirement to participate in the federal electronic verification of employment authorization program, or E-Verify, and [restricts] the age of persons employed by or allowed on the premises; creating criminal offenses.”

The bills had been lobbied by the group Operation Texas Shield, a nonprofit that targets what it calls “human trafficking,” and was one of the moving forces behind FOSTA/SESTA.

Language deployed in support of the bill concerned repeated appeals to “protect the children,” and steadily erased the distinction between adults 18-21 and actual minor children.

The new law’s main advocate in the legislature, State Rep. Tan Parker (R, Denton County), told an interviewer: “Throughout my service as a state representative, protecting children is the bedrock of my legislative purpose.”

“If Texas is going to eradicate the horrors of sexual abuse, we must be relentless in our efforts to prevent it from ever occurring,” he continued. “It might come as a surprise that minors are allowed on the premises of a sexually oriented business. I want to change this for our state, and more importantly, our children who deserve to be protected and given the promise of a bright future.”

The campaign to raise the legal age for Texas strip clubs consistently spoke of “children” and “human trafficking,” when referring to 18-21-year-old adults, including those freely consenting to the work.

Main Image: Rep. Tan Parker (R, Denton County)

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