Senate denies nudism defense in strip-bar bill

Group had lobbied for an exemption to restrictions

April 08, 2005|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Protection for nudists was stripped from a Senate bill on adult entertainment clubs yesterday after lawmakers raised concerns that strip clubs or dancers could simply register as members of a clothing-optional association to avoid local regulations.

Prince George's County lawmakers have been pushing for a bill that would give greater authority to Maryland's cities and towns in regulating strip clubs.

But the American Association of Nude Recreation feared local officials would use the power to restrict activities of its organization's members.

Maryland nudist facilities frequently hold winter events, such as nude swims at pool clubs, said Donald E. Murphy, the former Catonsville delegate and past chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party who is a lobbyist for the group.

"This is about personal property rights and individual freedom," Murphy said.

Murphy persuaded state Sen. Janet Greenip of Anne Arundel County, a conservative Republican, to support an amendment to the strip-club bill that would prevent cities from regulating members of the association.

"Believe me, I have two in my district, and no one even knows they are there," Greenip told her colleagues about the nudist facilities.

But lawmakers weren't convinced that the group deserved special protection.

"I want to know the bare facts. Can you describe for me what nude recreation is?" said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, a Charles County Democrat, during debate on the Senate floor.

After several minutes of puns, groans and arguments, the Senate voted 20-23 to kill the amendment that would have helped the association.

Murphy called the close vote - and the fact that several conservative Republicans supported the group - a win for nudists. But he said the amendment, which also included higher penalties for violators, would have made the bill better.

The unaltered bill giving cities the new powers will receive a final vote as soon as today, then go to the House of Delegates.

"We're against the girlie bars just like everyone else," Murphy said. "Everybody had a good time, and a chuckle, but they hurt themselves."

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