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City of Renton v. Playtime Theaters, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, City of Renton (Petitioner), passed a zoning code restricting the location of adult movie stores within the city.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A regulation that is content-based on its face may be considered content neutral if it is motivated by a permissible content-neutral purpose.

    Facts. The Petitioner’s zoning code prohibited adult movie theaters from locating themselves within 1,000 feet of any residential area, church, park or school. However, they were not completely banned from the city.

    Issue. Is this zoning ordinance a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech rights of the Respondent, Playtime Theaters, Inc. (Respondent)?

    Held. No. The Petitioner had a substantial interest in avoiding the secondary effects of the adult stores and also allows the stores to be located in other areas of town. Thus, it is a constitutional content-neutral regulation.

    Dissent. The ordinance places restrictions on establishments based on the content of the expression within it. Therefore, this is a content-based regulation.

    Discussion. Because the ordinance does not ban the adult theaters completely, it is not content-based. As a content-neutral regulation it is subject to the time, place, manner analysis where a regulation is constitutional as long as it serves a substantial governmental interest and does not unreasonably limit alternative avenues of communication.


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