Strip clubs file suit to block new tax for sexually exploited children

The Georgia Association of Club Executives (GA-ACE) has filed a lawsuit against Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr and state revenue commissioner Lynnette Riley to try to stop a new tax on adult entertainment establishments set to begin on January 1.

The new tax would support the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which will set aside money for helping victims of sex trafficking. The fund would provide rehabilitative and health services, residential housing and social resources for survivors of sex trafficking, as well as help efforts to curtail sex trafficking in Georgia.

The new tax was enacted after Georgia voters agreed to an amendment to the state's constitution during the 2016 general election.  

GA-ACE executive director Jill Chambers says the new tax unfairly suggests that adult businesses are "gateways" for child exploitation. 

"In passing the tax, the Georgia Legislature stated without basis that adult entertainment establishments serve as an access point for the sexual exploitation of children," Chambers said in a statement. "Legitimate licensed clubs and GA-ACE members are highly regulated and rigorously prevent patrons under age 21 from entering their businesses."  

Supporters of the tax use this rationale for making it okay to collect the tax. 

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Chambers pointed out that 60 FBI child trafficking arrests in Georgia in October and noted that none of them had any connection to an adult entertainment establishment. 

"Without justification, the unconstitutional tax lumps legitimate Georgia businesses, already subject to heavy government and self-regulation, in with sex offenders, “places of prostitution, pimping, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, [and] trafficking of persons for sexual servitude.” Such a characterization is offensive and casts an unfounded stigma on the legitimate adult entertainment industry," Chambers said.

Chambers said that GA-ACE members are trained by Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking, a nationwide organization that works to inform others about sex trafficking, and works with local and federal law enforcement to combat trafficking. She suggests that the state legislature focus its efforts on "finding and punishing the true perpetrators of these horrible crimes, rather than attacking legitimate Georgia businesses with no connection to the evils the Legislature seeks to prevent."

When contacted by 11Alive News, the attorney general's communications director said the office could not comment on pending litigation. 

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