LeAnna Cumber deserves credit for pushing legislation that may help with the problem of human trafficking.
As a City Council member, Cumber proposed an ordinance that would raise the age of women who work in strip clubs to 21. It was approved by the council in 2020 but challenged in court. Last week, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the city and the council passed a cleanup bill making it official.
Jacksonville thus becomes the first city in the nation to protect young girls with this kind of law.
“I am thrilled that the legislation I authored will change the lives of so many young girls here in Jacksonville and that the bill will be a model throughout the nation, Cumber said.
A strip club called Wacko’s had challenged the law on First Amendment grounds. The Supreme Court previously has held that women taking off their clothes in bars is “expressive conduct” but placed it in the “outer ambit” of the First Amendment.
That meant stripping was not immune to government regulation and the Jacksonville law sought to do that. For technical reasons, the original suit required the ordinance to be revised in 2022 and it was again challenged.
The court found that Jacksonville’s law did not aim at the suppression of free speech but instead sought to curtail the negative secondary effects of having vulnerable 18- to 25-year-old women “exposed to human and sex trafficking.”
The court said the city had established the nexus between the performer’s age and human trafficking in “whereas” clauses that cited studies showing the average age a person enters the sex trade to be 17.
The Dept. of Homeland Security says: “Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate industries, including primarily: escort services, illicit massage services, outdoor sexual solicitation, residential brothels, bars and strip clubs, pornography production, personal sexual servitude, and livestreaming of sexual exploitation.”
Cumber, currently a candidate for mayor, had been working on domestic violence since middle school and when she got on the council went to work on the issue. It passed 19-0 originally.
There are 16 strip clubs reported to be operating in Jacksonville.