Utah Supreme Court Rules Against Midvale Sex Shop Owner

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Supreme Court ruled against the owner of a sex shop Friday, saying that John Haltom cannot challenge the constitutionality of a sexually oriented licensing law for which he hasn't applied.

Applying for the license was a key component of the case, which challenged the constitutionality of the sexually oriented business law, the court ruled.

"The record also indicates, however, that had Dr. John's applied for the correct license he would have received one," the opinion said.

Haltom failed to show that his business "suffered more onerous treatment or adverse consequences than a regular commercial establishment," the justices ruled in the 4-1 decision.

Haltom owns Doctor John's Lingerie and Novelty Boutique in the Salt Lake City suburb of Midvale, which sells adult videos, lingerie, and erotic toys.

The state Supreme Court's ruling also upheld a permanent injunction against Haltom from selling adult material.

Attorney Peter Stirba said the ruling was a victory for Midvale, which has tried to force Haltom to license his business as sexually oriented.

"This is a very successful outcome in upholding all aspects of the constitutional challenges to the sexually oriented business license ordinance," Stirba said. "Midvale City has the absolute right to administratively regulate businesses within its jurisdiction and certainly has the right to regulate sexually oriented businesses and require appropriate licenses and other safeguards."

Haltom was ordered to register for a sexually oriented business license, which are traditionally more difficult to obtain than commercial business licenses. Third District Judge Leslie Lewis ruled two years ago that Haltom's business primarily sold items for sexual pleasure, qualifying it as a sexually oriented business.

Sexually oriented businesses must pay for employees' fingerprinting and background checks, and the store must close at a certain hour.

"There are just a myriad of irritating little rules that we just didn't feel we should have to go through," said Andrew McCullough, Haltom's lawyer.

Midvale officials ordered Haltom to remove certain items from his shelves; he complied, but later restocked his shelves with the wares.

The ruling upset Nebraska resident Haltom, who called it appalling and suggested that if Utah wanted to secede from the United States, he wouldn't object. He said two of his 16 stores are in Utah because Utah residents are sexually repressed.

"I'm just very disappointed in the state of Utah," Haltom said. "We're going to the federal court on this, and we're going to win."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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