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House panel repeals law that banned alcohol sales during obscene films

House panel repeals law that banned alcohol sales during obscene films

Dustin Hurst
March 9, 2016
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March 9, 2016

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to repeal a potentially unconstitutional law that prohibits liquor and beer license holders from selling alcoholic beverages during the showing of obscene films.

The proposal hit the Statehouse because a Meridian movie theater sued the state after two Idaho State Police ticketed the theater earlier this year because it served alcohol during a showing of 50 Shades of Grey.

The Village in Meridian alleged that the state violated the theater’s First Amendment rights because it used liquor licenses to impose restrictions on what type of movies theaters could show while serving alcoholic drinks.

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, alluded to the lawsuit in a prior hearing, but focused on the ban’s problematic nature during Tuesday’s meeting.

“There is some real concern that it is an unconstitutional law,” Palmer said. “As it is an uncomfortable subject matter to be talking about, [repeal is] something we need to do.”

ISP Capt. Russ Wheatley, who heads up the agency’s Alcohol Beverage Control Division, told committee members the bill’s repeal language had the approval of industry, law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.

Only Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, praised the measure, telling his colleagues that it strengthens First Amendment protections in Idaho.

The measure cleared the panel without dissent. It now heads to the House floor for further consideration.

Idaho theaters have dealt with this law before. In 2013, The Flicks in Boise, which serves alcohol during movies, declined to show Blue is the Warmest Color because a steamy sex scene in the film would have placed the business in conflict with the quirky state law.

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