Brothels Get Raw Deal in Nevada

Even sex is struggling in our economy- and especially in fickle Nevada.  A federal appeals court last week upheld a Nevada law that bars legal brothels that operate in some of the state’s rural areas from advertising by newspaper, leaflets and billboards in Las Vegas, Reno and other places where prostitution is illegal. 

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto hailed the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco, while a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada promised to appeal. 

The laws had been challenged by the ACLU, a Nye County brothel called the Shady Lady Ranch and two newspapers: the High Desert Advocate and Las Vegas City Life. 

Prostitution is illegal in Clark and Washoe counties — which include Las Vegas and Reno — and three other Nevada counties. Ten Nevada counties authorize prostitution by local ordinance. 

The 9th Circuit panel reversed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan in Nevada that two 1979 state laws prohibiting brothel advertising in counties where prostitution is illegal were overly broad and unconstitutional.

The laws also prohibit brothel advertising in theaters and on streets and public highways. 

Nevada still seeks to confine the sale of sex acts through licensing and advertising restrictions, the judges said. 

ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein said he didn’t immediately know whether he’d seek a hearing before the full 9th Circuit or would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

“The key issue is freedom of speech,” he said. 

“It’s a violation of the First Amendment for the state to restrict advertising by a legal industry, and it’s wrong for a court to make exceptions because the state doesn’t want to have it advertised that legalized prostitution exists,” Lichtenstein said. 

Masto called free speech “perhaps our most cherished right.” But Nevada has had restrictions on brothel advertising for 40 years, and the state should have the right to have reasonable limitations, she said. 

The case is Coyote Publishing v. Miller, No. 07-16633.

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