U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

5th Cir. Considers Minimum Age for Exotic Dancers

Just in time for Mardi Gras, a state appeals court is considering whether young women may bare their breasts in Louisiana.

But revelers shouldn't worry about flashing for beads along the streets of New Orleans during the annual carnival. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is focused on nude entertainers there.

Louisiana passed a law that prohibits women under age 21 from stripping. A trial judge said the law was unconstitutional, but the appeals court justices are taking another look.

Bikini Exception?

Act 395 makes 21 the minimum age for "entertainers whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view" at establishments that serve alcohol. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the law last year, however, saying it was unconstitutionally broad.

It could be interpreted to prohibit theater or ballet performances, said Judge Carl Barbier. In striking down the act, he also said the state's law defining nudity was inconsistent.

On appeal, the state attorney general says the law is clear. The legislature passed the law to protect young women who are susceptible to prostitution and human-trafficking, the government contends.

Scott Bergthold, arguing for the state, said the law does not prohibit the women from erotic dancing. They can still perform in bikinis.

But What Size?

Judges Edith Brown Clement and Leslie Southwick, two of three judges who heard arguments, had questions about the bikini exception. 

"There are lots of different size women," Clement said."How is a woman to know what size to buy?"

Chief Judge Carl Stewart asked whether the law was aimed at the French Quarter, where police recently raided eight strip clubs for alleged prostitution, drugs, and lewd acts. It is also where Mardis Gras really takes off.

Jeremy Grabill, an attorney for the dancers, said it was ridiculous that the "same adults who can vote for the legislators" or fight in a war "can't make decisions about how to protect themselves."

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