Q Of The Day: Should The Texas Judge Have Ruled The New "Pole Tax" Unconstitutional?
This is one of those stories that pits free expression against taxing strip club patrons to pay for anti-sexual-assault programs. Here’s the story from the Los Angeles Times, entitled Judge strips Texas of its ‘pole tax’:
Texas was forced by federal law to end its poll tax on voters four decades ago, and now another levy has put the Lone Star State in constitutionally murky waters: the “pole tax.”
Texas lawmakers last year imposed a $5-per-patron fee on strip joints to raise more than $40 million annually for anti-sexual-assault programs and healthcare for the uninsured.
The fee, which took effect Jan. 1, infuriated the owners of Texas’ 162 strip clubs, who said politicians were cynically taxing a population they knew would not fight back. After all, critics reasoned, men who make a habit of drinking and stuffing currency in the attire of scantily clad women are usually not eager to tell the world about it at legislative hearings.
“It’s not like Al Sharpton is going to show up and protest that we’re being discriminated against,” said a man who identified himself only as Dave, as he exited the Penthouse Club in Houston.
On March 28, however, Texas strip club devotees found a powerful ally: An Austin judge declared the pole tax unconstitutional, saying it infringed on expression protected by the 1st Amendment.
Travis County District Judge Scott H. Jenkins said in his ruling that laws limiting such expression had to pass strict constitutional tests and that the pole tax didn’t because, among other things, indigent healthcare had no connection to strip joints.
“There is no evidence that combining alcohol with nude erotic dancing causes dancers to be uninsured,” he wrote.
More of the article at the link.
I’m left thinking about how this seems to me to be equivalent of a state coming up with a $5 gay bar patron tax to pay for methamphetamine treatment programs. Would creating such a tax be a tax to attempt to limit the number of gay men in such a state because gay men are considered more likely to be meth addicts than heterosexual men?
With this Texas strip club patron tax, it seems to be specifically targeted at a specific subset of heterosexual men based on the assumption that this subset is bad for society — it seems to be specifically designed tax to limit the population of this subset of heterosexuals in Texas on the assumption that they are involved in sexual-assaults on women than other men in the state.
So, do you think Judge Jenkins made the right decision in declaring this “pole tax” unconstitutional? Do you find taxing strip club patrons $5 a visit to pay for anti-sexual-assault programs a reasonable or unreasonable tax?