Judge Rules that Taxing Texas Strip Clubs Doesn't Violate Free Speech Rights


Last month, we reported on the court battle over a law in Texas that requires strip clubs to pay a so-called “pole tax” of $5 per patron. Club owners claimed that since nude dancing is a form of expression, the tax violated their right to free speech and were refusing to pay up. This week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the club owners.

The Houston Chronicle reports that revenue from the tax was earmarked for services for victims of sexual assault and insurance for low income families.

The bill’s author, Ellen Cohen, wrote the law so that the first $25 million in proceeds from the tax would go to programs that help victims of sexual assault. After that, the funds are earmarked for health care programs for uninsured people.

The Texas Entertainment Association, which represents strip club owners, plans to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.

Money for victims of sexual assault! Insurance for the economically disenfranchised! Hooray!

While it’s encouraging that a conservative state like Texas is giving any money whatsoever to supporting victims of sexual violence and the uninsured, money for this initiative is coming from the very people that the services will likely support, since when businesses are heavily taxed, they often take it out of the pockets of their lowest level employees rather than their corporate coffers. Texas leads the nation in both percentage of hourly workers who earn the minimum wage and percentage of percentage of its population that remains uninsured. Both of these factors would make stripping a lucrative career choice for one of the state’s many women who did not graduate high school (Texas is also the nation’s leader in Leaving Children Behind) and lack the educational resources to advance economically. And sex workers are the most frequent victims of sexual violence.

This is a victory for progressives in Texas, but hopefully in the future, the Lone Star State will be able to support sexual assault victims and sex workers without effectively asking them to pay for their own rape kits.

Lawmaker cheers court OK for strip club ‘pole tax’ [Houston Chronicle]

Strip club ‘pole tax’ is upheld in Texas [NYT]

Image via Razumovskaya Marina Nikolaevna/Shutterstock

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