SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah liquor authorities did not violate a movie theater's right to free speech when they filed a complaint against the business for serving drinks while showing "Deadpool," a film with nudity and simulated sex scenes, according to the state attorney general's office.
The obscenity law is meant to protect the public from negative effects that could come from serving alcohol while showing movies with adult content, the conservative state said in court documents filed Wednesday. It is generally used to regulate alcohol at strip clubs but also applies to films with simulated sex or nudity.
"The state has the authority to protect public health, welfare and morals of the community," the attorney general's office said in court documents.
Salt Lake City theater Brewvies sued after Utah authorities threatened to pull its liquor license for serving booze during the anti-hero movie. The theater argued that the law violates free speech rights and is so broadly written that it would apply to Michelangelo's "David."
Gov. Gary Herbert said it's not a First Amendment issue.
"This is about laws regarding the selling of alcohol. And the laws are clear that if you want to have a liquor license and sell alcohol, you can't have nudity at the same time," the Republican governor said Thursday at his monthly news conference on PBS station KUED.
The state said Brewvies faced a fine of up to $25,000 and possible revocation of its liquor license, but it agreed not to enforce the obscenity law at the theater while the lawsuit plays out in court.
Brewvies only allows people 21 and older to attend movies and serves food and liquor to customers.
Utah's law is similar to an Idaho measure that lawmakers repealed this year when a theater sued after its liquor license was threatened for showing "Fifty Shades of Grey" while serving alcohol.
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