There aren’t really any “sexually oriented businesses” in Stevensville today, but if voters pass a proposed ordinance to license such businesses come November, future smut peddlers will be met with 38 pages of regulations governing everything from who can run one (no sex offenders, and proprietors must obtain a $500 annual license and submit information about themselves, including a picture; employees must do the same and pay a $50 fee) to how the outside can be painted (nothing “other than a single achromatic color”—that’s black, gray or white, in our dictionary’s third definition).
In mid-August, supporters of the ordinance turned in the necessary 121 signatures to put the matter on the ballot. Dallas Erickson, who helped draft the law and collect signatures, and has tried unsuccessfully for years to pass similar laws as president of Help Our Moral Environment, was on vacation and unreachable for comment. But the law’s preamble addresses its purpose, saying that sexually oriented businesses cause increased crime and that “the general welfare, health, morals and safety of the citizens of this Town will be promoted by enactment of this ordinance.”
While Town Attorney Bob Brown generally vetted the ordinance, saying he believes it conforms to state law, he also says there’s a potential problem, because sale of sexual paraphernalia isn’t limited to sex-hawking stores—drugstores, grocery stores and gas stations stock condoms and other forms of contraception—and it’s unclear how they might be affected.
“I don’t think there would be any attempt to enforce it, but the wording does create a problem as far as the drug store’s concerned,” Brown says. “Because those are legal for sale and not associated with a sexually oriented business, I don’t think there would be any problem with it if it were tested [in court].”
While that matter may have to play out in court, assuming the ordinance passes, the ordinance does contain wording that seeks to head off other potential misunderstandings: “Nothing in this ordinance should be construed to prohibit a person from appearing in a state of nudity while using a restroom,” one clause says, provoking more than one sigh of relief.