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Ordinance restricting businesses with live sex acts appropriate

Allen County’s Commissioners voted last week to implement rules that would prohibit swingers clubs and other businesses involving live sex acts and to require licenses for new sexually oriented businesses.

Some may scratch their heads at the move, since there are currently no such businesses in unincorporated Allen County, but News-Sentinel.com supports the commissioners’ pro-active ordinance as an effort to stem the tide of such lewd and unhealthy blights in our community.

The new laws by commissioners Nelson Peters, Therese Brown and Richard Beck Jr. were, according to documents they signed, created to “promote the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the county and to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent the deleterious secondary effects of sexually oriented businesses within the county.”

The ordinances apply to Allen County but would not apply to sexually oriented businesses within Fort Wayne, New Haven or Leo-Cedarville. Existing sexually oriented businesses would have to apply for licenses.

The measures, which are additions to the county’s public safety law, include a prohibition on “live sex act businesses” in which “one or more persons may view, or may participate in, a live sex act.”

“The live sex act ordinance will clarify what many thought was already a prohibition,” Peters told Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.

As a result of the ordinance, now in effect, the commissioners may put limits on the time, manner and place of some of the sexually oriented businesses that might be allowed to locate in portions of Allen County.

We agree with the commissioners that the ordinances are needed to protect the health and safety of our county’s residents. Businesses that promote live sex acts, they say, may be associated with prostitution, lewdness, sexual assault, public indecency, obscenity, illicit drug use and drug trafficking, potential spread of disease, crime, exploitation and negative impacts on surrounding properties, among other things.

While we realize the commissioners’ actions cannot and are not intended to limit residents’ First Amendment rights and their access to sexually oriented material, they can at least regulate the time, the place and the manner of operation of sexually oriented businesses.

The board’s decision to review its regulations, Peters explained, was spurred by a federal lawsuit filed against Fort Wayne in 2018 by the new owner of the former Rabbit’s Gentlemen Club, 1407 S. Calhoun St., where a sexually oriented business had operated from 1976-2016. The owner’s request for a variance to reopen the club was rejected, and the case was eventually thrown out of court.

Fort Wayne in years past has successfully fought the blight of illicit sex acts through massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution and adult bookstores. We believe the current efforts initiated by the county commissioners to prohibit live sex acts should be modeled by our municipalities and other counties as well.

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