ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - The Orange Beach city council approved its ordinance requiring 'vile and vulgar' t-shirts and apparel to be sold behind closed doors, visible only to adults. The ordinance passed with a 4-1 vote Tuesday, March 26.
Councilman Jeff Silvers was the lone ‘nay,' stating he thinks it needs more time.
"In the last few weeks, we've talked about this, those owners have taken strides in what we've been sending the message to them for, and they've taken them off the walls," Silvers said.
Spring break is in full swing and tourists are flocking to the beaches. This time of year, souvenir shops are filled with visitors looking for something to remember their trip to the beach. Officials, however, said they don't agree with the message some businesses are sending.
"Just appalled by what we saw on the wall…the obscenities, the depictions of just more obscenities. It was just awful," said Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, referring to t-shirts for sale at several souvenir stores at the beach.
You didn't have to even be inside the room to feel the overwhelming support. Letters, emails-even hand-written notes from all over were on display outside the chambers in favor of the ordinance.
One found much of the same support inside.
"I back the city administration if this is what they stand for 1,000-percent," said a resident. "We don't need to derogate our society."
Kennon brought this to the attention of the council after he went shopping at some of the stores with his son and was shocked at what he saw.
"'F' – words…other types of vulgar words. It had depictions of sex acts. It had glorification of illegal drug use of every kind," Kennon recalled.
Two stores already took the shirts off their shelves before the vote.
Alvin's Island vice-president Dror Levy told FOX10 News his business is all about complying with the city.
So the businesses aren't the issue anymore, rather specificity in the ordinance language.
How can you define offensive? That was the heart of the debate.
"You could wear an Auburn shirt and I would think that's offensive and not allow you in my condo," said a concerned citizen. "Otherwise offensive, that could be anything. So that's a word that is going to have to be tweaked. Every individual thinks different things are offensive."
Councilman Al Bradley offered a rebuttle.
"It's vague, you're right," Bradley said. "You cannot write in the legislation 'this is offensive, and this is not.' But as a former Supreme Court justice said ‘porn is hard to define, but I know it when I see it."
Gulf Shores has also received complaints, but they currently have no plans to pursue a similar ordinance, saying that the stores have agreed to remove material deemed inappropriate off the shelves and walls. Shoppers had mixed views on the matter.
"It's going to be out anyway. They've got the music playing about it. That's life. Shirts is just another thing," said a spring breaker from Tuscaloosa.
"No, it shouldn't be out there because there's lots of little kids that come in there and parents don't want to explain that to them…not yet," offered a mom from Gilbertown.
"If they want to have it in here, that's fine. Buy it," said a dad from Montgomery. "But don't…you know…if you don't want it, don't buy it. But don't get mad because you come in the store and see."
Mayors for both cities agree that displaying merchandise like that doesn't meet the area's family friendly brand. Kennon said the proposed ordinance wouldn't prevent stores from selling the items. They would just have to keep them out of public view.
"The essential component is, once it's determined to be obscene, it has to be behind closed doors where innocent children's not exposed to it and the store has to notify you before you walk in that these type of obscenities are sold," Kennon explained.
Kennon said the passing of the ordinance puts an exclamation point on the issue and sends a strong message to current and future businesses that public displays of obscenity will not be tolerated.
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