The Texas Supreme Court ruled (PDF) Friday that a $5 tax on nude dancing is constitutional because it does not place a fee on free expression.
In their unanimous decision, the court said that the approximately 150 strip clubs in the state must abide by the tax. An appeals court had previously struck it down.
Created by the Republican-dominated legislature in 2008, the tax was designed to help shore up the state’s massive budget deficit and fund programs that help the victims of sexual assault. It was expected to bring in about $40 million a year.
In defense of the law, attorneys argued that it was also meant to target “the negative secondary effects of nude entertainment, especially in the presence of alcohol — rape, sexual assault, prostitution, disorderly conduct, and a variety of other crimes and social ills,” insisting it was more akin to a zoning law than a limit on expression.
The earlier court decision had rejected that argument on the basis of the legislature’s actions, saying there was no evidence that lawmakers had intended such a thing. The Texas Supreme Court, however, accepted this argument, saying that an additional fee would discourage the use of alcohol in strip clubs.
The law would allow strip clubs to forgo the tax altogether, but they would have to stop patrons from drinking alcohol on the premises.
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