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A Gainesville stripper and her lawyer say new Florida law violates First Amendment rights

The front of the federal building that houses the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (Valentina Sarmiento/Fresh Take Florida)
The front of the federal building that houses the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (Valentina Sarmiento/Fresh Take Florida)

A Gainesville stripper has filed a lawsuit against a state law passed earlier this year limiting the age of adult entertainers to 21.

Serenity Bushey, 19, used to work at Cafe Risque, a strip club near Gainesville. When H.B. 7063 went into effect July 1, she was no longer allowed to work there. The law prohibits adult entertainment businesses from hiring anyone 18-20 years old, for any job from exotic dancing to DJing or working security.

Bushey filed the suit alongside Cafe Risque’s parent company, as well as two other adult entertainment companies in Jacksonville. Gary Edinger, Bushey’s attorney, said this case is an important First Amendment issue.

“This may seem trivial,” he said. “But it's not trivial. Any time First Amendment rights are infringed, it's important not just to the plaintiffs, but to society at large.”

Edinger said the law makes it illegal for those under 21 to dance or perform in strip clubs or other adult entertainment spaces, which he said could classify as speech.

“One of the questions the suit wants to have the court answer is what rights does an 18 year old adult citizen have with respect to speech?” Edinger said. “And the answer we want from the court is they have all their rights.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law in May after it passed in both the Florida House and Senate with only three votes against it in each chamber.

Rep. Carolina Amesty, R-Windermere, was one of the bill’s sponsors. She declined WUFT’s request for an interview and said via email that due to the ongoing litigation of the case, her office would not provide a statement. A spokesperson from her office said in an email that Amnesty is “committed to combatting human trafficking and supporting women and families in Florida.”

Edinger said Bushey’s lawsuit will move slower than many other district court cases because of previous ongoing litigation surrounding a Jacksonville city ordinance that banned dancing in strip clubs under 21. He said that case is pending in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court, and the judge should come to a decision within a few months. Whatever the 11th Circuit finds, he said, will set a legal precedent that the lower district court will likely follow.

Kristin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.