Editor’s note: On Sept. 22, 2006, the full 8th Circuit refused to hear the case. The appeals court also refused to grant a rehearing before the three-judge panel.
ST. LOUIS — A 2-year-old state law banning sexually suggestive billboards
along Missouri highways is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court panel ruled
The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in St. Louis overturned a U.S. District Court's ruling earlier this year
that banning such billboards within a mile of state highways was a
constitutional regulation of commercial speech.
The law, which took effect August 2004, sought to reduce the possible
negative effects posed by sexually suggestive billboards, including harming
minors, reducing traffic safety and lowering property values.
But the 8th Circuit panel ruled in Passions Video Inc.
v. Nixon that the Missouri statute had no such effect.
The ruling said the law was not "narrowly drawn" to meet those goals, and the
state "failed to make a showing that a more limited speech regulation would not
have adequately served the state's interest."
Passions Video Inc., an adult book store; Gala Entertainment Inc., a Kansas
City strip club; and the Lion's Den adult stores filed the suit last year
against Attorney General Jay Nixon. John Haltom, an adult-business owner with 10
stores that sell lingerie, sex toys and adult videos in six states, also sued
The state will seek a rehearing from the full 8th Circuit, and if
unsuccessful, might appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, Nixon
spokesman John Fougere said.
Messages left with attorneys for the adult businesses that filed the suit
were not returned in time for this story.
The law would have forced the adult-business owners and others with sexually
suggestive billboards near highways to take them down by mid-2007. Billboard
advertising companies have refused to allow new sexy billboards to go up since
the 2004 law.
State Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, spearheaded the legislation, modeling
it after a similar law upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The law eventually would have allowed an adult-oriented business located
within a mile of a highway to have just two signs — one showing the business'
name and operating hours, the other noting it is off-limits to minors.
House Speaker Rod Jetton called the 8th Circuit's ruling "unfortunate."
"It leaves Missourians of every age exposed to sleazy billboards along our
highways," Jetton said in a statement. "Billboards like these are distasteful,
unnecessary distractions that pose a real threat to highway safety and give
children and adults the wrong impression about what quality entertainment really
If the attorney general was not successful in appealing the ruling, Jetton
said, the Legislature would work to correct the problem "so Missourians have the
protections a law like this provides."