- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

I’ve been called a “homophobe,” a “hater” and worse because I oppose the D.C. legislative proposition that would grant special permission for nude bars and their nefarious constituencies to set up shop in the section of the city where I live, work and, on occasion, worship. My personal arguments don’t stand on sexual preferences or gender. They stand on the merits of quality of life in the nation’s capital.

Here’s the issue, without bogging you, the reader, down in minutiae or hysterics: The D.C. government is building a baseball stadium in an area where eight establishments that catered to homosexuals were located; the businesses were displaced; in search of new homes, several have set their sights on the New York Avenue corridor, which is the gateway to the capital. But the D.C. liquor board ruled against one of the clubs that applied for a license along the corridor; now a D.C. lawmaker is entertaining legislation that would give “special” permission for these businesses to relocate along the corridor. Residents argue that crime and violence will flourish in a red-light district.

Zoning laws, alcohol laws and quality-of-life issues are incredibly intertwined regardless of where one lives — and even more so in a city like Washington, where our 68 square miles are set in centuries-old stone. We have no where to grow.

The legislation that is under consideration is the One-Time Relocation of Licensees Displaced by the Ballpark and Skyland Development Project Amendment Act of 2007. It would exempt several adult-oriented establishments from having to follow the rules, regulations and laws that other businesses do when re-establishing themselves. It specifically would allow at least four displaced clubs that cater to homosexuals to relocate within blocks of each other.

Proponents of the special treatment for this special-interest industry claim City Hall is obligated to them because City Hall’s actions (i.e. giving the stadium project the go-ahead) led to the displacements. The latter is correct. Had the D.C. Council not approved then-Mayor Tony Williams’ proposal to build a stadium off Capitol Hill, on the banks of the Anacostia, those businesses would presumably still be in business.

As for the argument that City Hall is obligated? Hogwash. Proponents are essentially seeking legal reparations. They claim the businesses were chased to the river’s edge in the 1970s by the police chief. In fact, the police chief at that time, Jerry Wilson, was standing tall and following the orders of business leaders, clergy, taxpayers and other law-abiding stakeholders who were sick and tired of being sick and tired about the red-light districts.

While D.C. certainly was no Sodom or Sin City, it was obvious that sex-oriented businesses were flaunting their trade, and many were breaking the law. Instructions to City Hall were clear: Clean up the city.

If the full measure of the legislature approves this “One-Time” bill, it will be setting a bad precedent. City Hall owes no reparations to displaced entertainment businesses — gay or straight, black or white, Jewish or Christian.

The Washington Blade has its own take on the issue. One of its recent headlines, “Liquor board ruling threatens gay clubs displaced by stadium,” explains, in and of itself, how sexual preference has come, for some, to define and distract.

For me, nude dancing, hard- and soft-core porn, massage parlors that are sex dens, and strip-teasing in establishments that sell alcohol don’t need redefining. It doesn’t matter whether the dancers, strippers and proprietors of such sex-oriented establishments are heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transsexual, asexual or just down right confused.

Smut, booze, sluts and thugs create a powerfully dangerous elixir.

Red-light districts can leave indelible marks on a city. Red-light districts near in near residences depress property values, create long-standing blight and bring about migraines for law enforcement. That’s precisely why proponents have no argument about being “exiled to a commercial-manufacturing area of D.C. Also, the people who frequent red-light districts create all kinds of problems for themselves and the public that can lead to a city being labeled unhealthy — substance abuse, uninsured health care, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

In other words, while the establishments themselves have no socially redeeming values, the cumulative effects such businesses have on society in general are obvious and can be overwhelming.

“Businesses” that offer free-flowing alcohol and free-flowing sex are unhealthy in any neighborhood, especially one in which their nearby low-income neighbors — whose lives are depressed enough — are themselves in search of special treatment from City Hall.

Out of sight, out of mind. So the saying goes. But these places won’t be out of sight. They never are.

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