Bill to regulate ‘adult-oriented businesses’ introduced

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

FRANKFORT – A pair of legislators are filing a bill intended to restrict minors’ access to “sexually-explicit performances.”

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, and Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, introduced mirror bills Tuesday – Senate Bill 147 and House Bill 402.

The bills would prohibit “adult-oriented businesses” that distribute, display or host sexually-explicit performances from being located within 933 feet – the length of an average city block – from a place where minors may be present.

These locations may include schools, libraries, parks, recreational areas, child care centers and places of worship.

The bills also restrict what is visible to minors from the outside of an adult-oriented business.

Adult-oriented businesses include adult arcades, adult bookstores or video stores, adult cabarets, adult theaters or “any establishment that hosts sexually explicit drag performances or any performance involving sexual conduct.”

“Our joint legislation aims to protect those in society who are the most vulnerable and susceptible to the adverse effects of the adult or entertainment industry, primarily children,” Tate said.

The bills are similar to last year’s SB115, sponsored by Tichenor, which passed the Senate but did not make it through the House.

There are a few differences, Tichenor said. First, the 1,000-foot limit was reduced.

Second, if this law is violated, the businesses that host the performances are held liable, not the performers.

Businesses may lose their business or alcohol license, or receive a cease and desist letter, if they violate the bill’s regulations.

If passed, pre-existing businesses that violate the new law would have five years to move before being penalized.

Tichenor said that dressing in drag is not inherently “sexually-explicit” under the bill’s language, which had not been publicly published Tuesday morning.

“Again, this is not to limit drag,” she said. “This is not to limit access to adult content. It is strictly to keep children away from sexually explicit content.”

However, local governments would have discretion over what qualifies as “sexually explicit” beyond the minimum standard the bills require.

Nonetheless, Tichenor said that she does not believe this legislation would adversely impact the drag business.

“This legislation is not intended to impede on any First Amendment rights of free speech, nor to impose limitations or reasonable access to the intended adult market,” she said.

Tate said that this is a continuation of previous public protections intended to keep children from sexual activity, materials and performances.

“Children should be given the opportunity to develop even without thinking about sex, sexual preferences, and it is our responsibility as adults to protect the innocence of their minds and bodies,” she said.

“They will have plenty of time and opportunity as adults to be introduced to adult entertainment.”