Judge: Salem lap dances protected by constitution

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A Marion County judge has ruled that lap dances in Salem are protected by the free speech provisions of the Oregon Constitution.

Judge Albin Norblad's ruling struck down a city ban on "prohibited touching" - sexually exciting physical contact for pay.

The case involves Laurel Guillen, 24, a dancer at a Salem club called Cheetah's, who gave a lap dance to an undercover officer in April 2005.

Salem residents hoping to limit Salem strip club activity called the ruling a setback.

"You see what they've done, they've taken free speech and they've stretched it to cover everything," said South Salem resident Julia Allison, a member of Oregonians Protecting Neighborhoods.

The group is trying to set up a ballot measure to amend the Oregon Constitution to strengthen government regulation of strip clubs.

Two Salem strip clubs shrugged the ruling off Friday, saying they don't allow lap dancing.

"We have table dances, where our entertainers stay 6 to 12 inches away at all times," said Claude DeCorsi, manager of Star's Cabaret. "Any victory for the adult industry, way to go, but it doesn't really apply to us."

Frank Boussad, owner of Presley's Playhouse Cabaret, said his club also limits activity to table dances. "We don't allow lap dancing," he said. "We just try to run a real clean establishment."

Cheetah's does not serve alcohol and is open to people 18 and older.

Court records say the officer paid Guillen for touching "her pelvis to his pelvis area and thigh for the purpose of arousing sexual excitement."

She was convicted last November, fined $250 and sentenced to a year's probation. She appealed.

Norblad, who found Guillen not guilty, cited an Oregon Supreme Court case that found it legal under Oregon's liberal free speech protections for a stripper to rub her breasts against a man's chest and perform a live sex show with another woman.

Guillen's attorney, Kevin Lafky, said the city's ordinance was written too broadly and could be used to ban normal conduct such as theater performance, movie making and photography.

Lafky said the rule also applies to a second dancer Salem police cited for prohibited touching during the same sting, Stephenie Lawrow, 22.

Salem City Attorney Randall Tosh declined comment Friday but said the city would review the ordinance and consider an appeal. 

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)