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Milwaukee Gay
Arts Center Sues City Over Free Speech

Milwaukee Gay
Arts Center Sues City Over Free Speech

A gay arts group in Milwaukee is suing the city for forcing it to shut down a racy show. The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center alleges its free speech rights were violated when the city closed the show Naked Boys Singing! while the center's application for a theater permit was being reviewed, the Associated Press reports.

In August 2005 the center opened a run of performances of the show, which features nude actors singing musical numbers, even though it hadn't yet received a permit. The local police department soon received a complaint of "illegal nude theater," the Associated Press reports, and when a detective visited the center, he said the participants could be arrested for performing without a permit. Consequently, the show's director decided to cancel the remaining performances.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, who's representing the center, told the AP that he thought the way the city handled the matter was extreme. "I think the title made it kind of controversial," Dupuis said. "But of course, The Full Monty has nudity in it, and that doesn't get it threats to shut it down."

Dupuis added that Milwaukee's theater permits process is so vague that it can be used in political ways. "It could be used to discriminate," Dupuis told the AP, "and we suspect that there was some sort of discriminatory thinking that went into the decision-making somewhere along the line."

A spokesperson for Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett declined to comment to the AP, and a call to the city attorney's office went unanswered. (The Advocate)

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