The Texas Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a special $5 fee charged to patrons of strip clubs in the Lone Star State, overturning lower court decisions.
The ruling, which was handed down last Friday, said the fee, which has been nicknamed the “pole tax,” did not violate the free speech rights of the clubs or the strippers.
The owner of one of the establishments in Amarillo, along with the larger Texas Entertainment Association, filed suit against the Texas attorney general and comptroller to block the Sexually Oriented Business Fee Act, according to The New York Times. The law was passed in 2007 and took effect in 2008 (see Texas Taxes Strip Joints). A district court struck down the law in 2008 (see Texas Strip Club 'Pole Tax' Busted). That ruling was upheld by an appeals court in 2009, which said the law was a “selective taxation scheme” against a specific type of “First Amendment speaker.” But the state appealed that ruling to the state's Supreme Court (see Texas Fights for Strip Club 'Pole Tax').
However, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the fee was constitutional as it only applied to strip clubs where alcohol was consumed. Strip clubs could avoid the tax by refusing to serve alcohol.
The Texas Entertainment Association may appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court or take the case back to the state district court by arguing against the law’s constitutionality under the state constitution.
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