Adult clubs sue, calling new Georgia tax unconstitutional

A coalition of adult entertainment venues is suing Georgia’s attorney general and Department of Revenue commissioner over a new tax that aims to curb child trafficking.

The Georgia Association of Club Executives filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court against Attorney General Chris Carr and Department of Revenue Commissioner Lynn Riley arguing that the tax is unconstitutional because it targets free speech — in this case, the nudity exhibited by adult entertainers.

“The tax is unconstitutional because it places a content-based tax on free speech of which certain members of the Legislature do not approve,” association Executive Director Jill Chambers said.

Carr’s office declined to comment.

The law, approved by Georgia voters in 2016, requires that adult entertainment businesses pay $5,000 or 1 percent of their gross revenue, whichever is more, to finance the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and a commission that oversees the fund, which is designed to provide care and social programs for victims.

The tax went into effect Jan. 1, with businesses scheduled to submit their first payment next April 30.

The bill aims to target bad actors and businesses that contribute to child sex trafficking, something Chambers said is not happening at adult clubs.

Chambers, a former Georgia lawmaker, said the members of her organization are offended that the law “lumps legitimate Georgia businesses” with those who are paying steeper penalties for sex crimes such as prostitution, pimping and masturbation for hire.

State law requires the business and all employees undergo a background check, confirming he or she is at least 18 years old, and be licensed. Attendees must be 21 and older. Chambers says strip clubs are not where those looking to lure children into sex trafficking rings target victims.

“They go to areas where children congregate,” she said. “Children do not congregate at adult clubs. … To be accused of such a heinous crime is unfair, and this is the way that the business owners are fighting back.”

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