Many residents of Pound, Virginia are kicking their heels after a U.S. district judge struck down a local Virginia dance ordinance as an unconstitutional restriction of free expression.. The case dealt with William Elam, the owner of a popular trucker nightspot who tired of forbidding his patrons from dancing. His legal victory means truckers and teenagers can now dance the night away.
Eighteen years ago, town officials banned dancing to supposedly reduce the likelihood of marital infidelity and subsequent ruined marriages. Even today, many in the town of 1,000 support the ordinance. “There’s bound to be trouble when you mix drinking, country music and dancing,” said Danny Stanley, the only member of the five-person Council who would consent to an interview.
|Realizing that it was impossible to deal with intolerant politicians and their supportive mob, he hired a lawyer and went to court.
The ordinance banned dancing in any open place open to the public that did not first obtain a dance hall permit from the Council. Unless a permit-seeker owned a Church, there was a slim chance of obtaining a permit and until a year ago no one ever applied for one.
Elam initially tried to deal with the council’s legal hurdles by submitting an application. However, he withdrew the application when more than 200 people showed up at a town meeting to oppose the permit. Realizing that it was impossible to deal with intolerant politicians and their supportive mob, he hired a lawyer and went to court.
The town council responded to his court win by vowing to rewrite the ordinance more narrowly to pass constitutional muster. In addition, the council is using other unjust codes to restrict his establishment. According to town building inspectors, Elam’s business does not meet the state’s fire code for dance halls and could be shut down. It is also likely that the health inspector, the environmental inspector, the water inspector, and every other member of the government’s Gestapo will find something wrong unless Elam agrees to “voluntarily” restrict dancing. But for now, truckers are dancing in Pound, Virginia.
Many towns pass dancing restrictions to restrict teenagers from throwing parties, such as raves. It is entirely possible that more local judges would rule that the restrictions are an unconstitutional restriction of free expression. Therefore, you may want to follow in the footsteps of the truckers in Virginia by asking the courts to strike down your local dancing ordinances.