According to a new lawsuit, a city ordinance requires female dancers to register with the government and add their name to a public database, but the same rule doesn't apply to male performers.
Photo by Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Strip clubs in Reno are fighting to free the nipple from a "discriminatory" city law that they say subjects female dancers to harsh regulations male dancers are not required to abide by.
According to a lawsuit brought by several local clubs, women who wish to perform topless in strip clubs are required to register with the city and obtain a "work card." That process requires fingerprinting, a $101.50 fee, disclosure of work history, and a FBI background check. Once registered, female dancers are listed on a public, online database that displays their full name and other identifying information.
Women who work in strip clubs must carry this work card on their person when they perform. The lawsuit implies that the regulation isn't a far cry from mandating "that all dancers wear a scarlet letter A on their shoulders."
The strip clubs also assert that they are unfairly required to enforce 21-and-up age limit, while shows that feature male dancers can admit patrons who are under 18. The lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates the First Amendment and equal protection laws, "since male and female dancers do the same thing." (When reached by Broadly, the Reno Attorney's Office declined to comment.)
Tod Story, the executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, told Broadly in a statement that the law, as it appears to be applied, "is unconstitutional gender discrimination," adding that "the city of Reno must apply its ordinances equally to women and men alike."
However, he emphasized, the work card requirements infringe on the rights of dancers, regardless of gender. Such requirements can have troubling consequences: Strippers have spoken out against regulations like this in the past, arguing that they're stigmatizing and potentially dangerous.
"The registry aspect of it is really scary," Lindsay, the former president of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and a go-go dancer at a Philadelphia strip club, told Broadly after the state of Pennsylvania attempted to pass a similar law.
"If the work card requirements for performers singles them out because of the type of expression they are engaged in, it likely infringes on the First Amendment rights of exotic dancers and strippers," Story of the ACLU said. "The City of Reno cannot single out these dancers for work card requirements because they disapprove of the performance content. Dancing is expression worthy of the full protection of the First Amendment."