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Milwaukee Gay
Arts Center files claim against city

Milwaukee Gay
Arts Center files claim against city

The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center has filed a claim against the city, contending it committed a civil rights violation by shutting down performances of a touring musical revue. An ordinance requiring a city theater license was selectively enforced against the center last week for a presentation of Naked Boys Singing because it is a gay organization, according to the claim filed Tuesday by attorney Richard Hart on behalf of the group. The claim said such a permit was never required for other productions in the past and that numerous other venues typically present theater performances without one. It contends that, even though the production contains nudity, that was no excuse for the city to shut it down Thursday. The presentation was halted Thursday when officers from the Milwaukee Police Department's vice control division arrived and said the center had failed to obtain a city theater license, required if a production charges to see a performance. Anne E. Schwartz, a department spokeswoman, said vice officers handled the case because of the musical's title. A city ordinance prohibits frontal nudity but exempts theater and other art performances from the ban as long as they have "serious artistic merit" and the predominant nature of the business is not intended to "provide sexual gratification." The claim filed Tuesday also states that, as a charitable organization, the center is exempt from the theater permit requirement. It states that the center promotes and produces theater presentations that benefit gay-related groups and that proceeds were designated for various AIDS research groups and theater groups. The claim seeks $500,000 in punitive damages, $100,000 for anticipated legal fees, $27,720 for loss of ticket revenue, $3,000 for loss of advertisement revenue, $1,700 for the cost of rights to the play, and $2,000 for legal fees to date. The center applied for the theater permit, but the request must be considered by the common council, which is on break until September 7. Lt. John Kaltenbrun of the Milwaukee Police Department vice division likened the situation to a new bar opening its doors while its tavern license has yet to be approved and said it had absolutely nothing to do with the nudity or content of the show. (AP)

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