Law School Case Brief
Young v. American Mini Theatres - 427 U.S. 50, 96 S. Ct. 2440, 49 L. Ed. 2d 310, 1976 U.S. LEXIS 3
Detroit, Michigan zoning ordinances requiring that adult motion picture theaters not be located within 1,000 feet of two other regulated uses, including mini theaters, adult bookstores, cabarets (group "D"), establishments for the sale of beer or intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises, hotels or motels, pawnshops, pool or billiard halls, public lodging houses, secondhand stores, shoeshine parlors, and taxi dance halls, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The operators of two adult movie theaters in Detroit, Michigan, instituted separate actions against city officials in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment of the unconstitutionality of a Detroit ordinance requiring that adult theaters be licensed, and of Detroit zoning ordinances providing that absent a waiver from the Zoning Commission, an adult movie theater may not be located within 1000 feet of any two other "regulated uses" (10 different kinds of establishments in addition to adult theaters), and defining an "adult theater" as one which presented material "characterized by an emphasis" on matter depicting or relating to "Specified Sexual Activities" or "Specified Anatomical Areas" (as defined in the ordinances). Consolidating the cases, the District Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the ordinances violated the equal protection clause because they imposed a prior restraint on constitutionally protected communication, and thus, could not be justified merely by establishing that they were designed to serve a compelling state interest. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Did the Detroit ordinances, which regulated the location of adult establishments, violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution?
The United States Supreme Court held that the ordinances were constitutional. According to the Court, the ordinances were not a prior restraint on speech. Persons could still watch adult entertainment. The restriction was a reasonable attempt to regulate social problems, such as crime, which occurred around adult theaters. Whether speech could be regulated depended largely on its content. Sexually oriented materials could be placed in a different classification than other films. This fact plus the city's legitimate desire to control the effect of adult businesses on surrounding neighborhoods meant that the Equal Protection Clause was not violated.
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