NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana can enforce an age limit of 21 for erotic dancers in bars and nightclubs, a federal appeals court panel ruled Friday, reversing an earlier decision and rejecting the argument that state law is too vague on how much of a dancer’s breasts and buttocks must be covered.
The abrupt reversal by the three-judge 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel was a sudden defeat for three young women who said the law had cost them the lucrative income they had as strip club dancers and unconstitutionally squelched their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
Louisiana outlaws full nudity for strippers in establishments licensed to serve alcohol, no matter what their age, specifically naming portions of the anatomy that cannot be publicly displayed.
The state also has a 2016 law that restricts strip club dancing by those ages 18, 19 and 20. Although people 18 and over are often treated as adults under state law, Louisiana lawmakers said they wanted the age restriction to help shield young women from the drugs and sex-trafficking sometimes associated with strip clubs.
The 2016 law says “entertainers whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view” in alcoholic beverage establishments must be no younger than 21.