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THE LAST WORD: Line between stripping, swinging hard to distinguish

Kerry Hubartt

I’m all for personal freedom and property rights, even if I may disagree with what people do legally in the privacy of their own home or elsewhere.

But in the wake of a proposed zoning ordinance and the ensuing debate in Allen County regarding where sexually oriented businesses can locate and what other restrictions are being imposed, I’m struggling to understand the difference between outlawing some actions in a strip club while letting people have sex in a swingers club.

I have always been of the understanding — naive, I guess — that having sex or sexual contact in places like strip clubs, massage parlors, prostitution fronts or any other “businesses” was against the law. But apparently restrictions are being applied in some cases but not others.

As News-Sentinel.com reporter/columnist Kevin Leininger wrote Tuesday, “City Council agreed to tougher regulations on strip joints and other sexually oriented businesses but defeated a bill that would have banned clubs that facilitate actual sex.”

On Thursday, Allen County’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment, which restricts sexually oriented businesses in unincorporated Allen County to areas zoned general industrial, was passed unanimously and without discussion by the county plan commission. Such businesses also cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school, residential district or religious institution.

Now the amendment goes to the county commissioners, who have the final say. If they approve it, the county’s rules still would not apply to the municipalities of Fort Wayne, Huntertown, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville, New Haven and Woodburn, which would have to pass their own ordinances to impose restrictions.

Fort Wayne, according to news reports, has not yet passed an amendment to its zoning ordinance. That amendment will have a public hearing before the city plan commission at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in Room 35 of Citizens Square.

Unincorporated Allen County has no known swingers clubs or strip clubs, said Robert Eherenman, attorney for the county plan commission. But Fort Wayne has both.

Here’s the rub: Last week, Fort Wayne City Council failed to pass an ordinance banning sexually oriented businesses, such as swingers clubs, where patrons can engage in or view live sex acts. However, Council did approve an ordinance requiring licenses for, and regulating activities inside, strip clubs. Fort Wayne has several strip clubs but only one swingers club, which includes live sex acts — the Champagne Club at 2710 Nuttman Ave.

Council’s new rules for businesses such as strip clubs include a six-foot buffer between dancers and customers, meant to deter physical contact, which is apparently pretty common with dancers’ interactions with customers, such as lap dances.

Dr. John Crawford was one of the City Council members, however, who killed a companion bill that would have outlawed live sex-act businesses. He argued that it was a property rights issue and that there is no evidence the Champagne Club has been a source of crime, sexually transmitted disease or other problems that would justify closing the business.

Leininger wrote that Crawford said the club has operated for several years with few problems and pointed out that “its owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a business he believes generates between $5 million and $10 million in annual tourism revenues.”

Live sex at a swingers club is apparently a tourism draw to Fort Wayne. That’s a good thing?

While I support the intent of the sexually oriented businesses ordinance by City Council to ban physical contact between strip club dancers and patrons, I remain hard-pressed to understand how such restrictions are not relevant to swingers clubs, property rights or not.

Crawford and others may argue that swingers clubs are doing no harm, but that is certainly debatable. I would argue that the whole idea of sexual freedom — voyeurism, pornography, treatment of women as sexual objects, extramarital sex, promiscuity and infidelity — leads to the destruction of family and morality in our country.

Whether we, as a nation, adhere to biblical teachings regarding the relationship between a man and woman or not, I believe those guidelines are there for a purpose, which is part of a grand design for the kind of world in which you should want your kids to grow up.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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