Owners of a Maryland bookstore were granted a reprieve yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court set aside a Prince George's County law banning adult bookstores within 1,000 feet of a school or church.
A federal appeals court had ordered Warwick Books in Hyattsville to shut down for violating a county zoning law. The store has remained open during its appeal.
But in 11126 Baltimore Blvd vs. Prince George's County, the Supreme Court told the appeals court to restudy arguments that the zoning code violates the bookstore owners' free-speech rights. The high court's order cites its Jan. 9 ruling that struck down a licensing requirement for sexually oriented businesses in Dallas.
A federal judge declared the Prince George's zoning restrictions unconstitutional, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling last year.
The appeals court relied heavily on Supreme Court rulings that give communities broad power to restrict where sexually explicit materials can be sold.
The county ban is designed "to protect minors from exposure to sexually explicit material and, second, to prevent the adverse effects of sexually oriented businesses on neighboring property values and land uses," the appeals court said.
The zoning law, adopted in 1975 and strengthened in 1980, also bars access to the stores by anyone younger than 18.