March 17, the Carmel City Council defeated by 5-2 a resolution that would have, according to supporter Eric Seidensticker, promoted a “family-friendly community.” But according to detractor Joe Griffiths, the defeated resolution raised First Amendment concerns and could have potentially been abused to limit free expression.
Although there were no enforcement provisions in the resolution, Carmel’s businesses, organizations and residents would have been encouraged to promote a “wholesome environment” by refraining from the display of suggestive material in prominent public view.
The lingerie-clad Victoria’s Secret mannequins that had caused so much controversy at Carmel’s Clay Terrace Mall would be an example of this type of suggestive material, said Carmel City Council member Seidensticker in a telephone interview.
“If I were to see my daughters walking around in that type of clothing I would not be happy about it,” Seidensticker said.
Speaking in favor of the resolution at the March 17 City Council meeting, Lori Baxter and Jenny DeHeer of the Concerned Mothers in Carmel likewise drew a connection between suggestive images and promiscuous behavior.
Baxter and DeHeer, who made national news by protesting against the Victoria’s Secret window displays at Carmel’s Clay Terrace Mall, lobbied the council members in support of the resolution over the past several months.
Councilman Joe Griffiths, who voted against the resolution, said that he refused to meet with Baxter and DeHeer, partly because the resolution’s wording had been lifted virtually verbatim from a similar resolution passed in Utah, and partly because he disagreed with the entire premise of the legislation that they were promoting.
“These women have been to Marsh and asked [store management] to put covers on Cosmopolitan,” Griffiths said. “What’s to stop them from going into public schools and telling them they can’t teach sex education? This is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope it just dies and goes away.”
Councilman Seidensticker, who does not see a First Amendment problem with the resolution, emphasized its lack of enforcement powers. He said that it would be up to individual businesses to uphold a community standard. “It’s in their [economic] interest not to offend average, well-rounded people,” he said. He went on to say that Carmel’s trendier districts are not just destinations for couples engaged in “pillow talk,” but also attract families with school-aged children.
At the same time, Seidensticker seems more respectful of First Amendment protections than DeHeer and Baxter when it comes to public art. He said that the door handles of the Evan Lurie Gallery of Fine Art, which incorporate nude male statuettes (that were denounced by the Concerned Mothers in a previous council meeting), are worthy of such protection even though he himself does not appreciate such art.
Seidensticker, whose district includes Clay Terrace Mall and the Art & Design District, said that he received more e-mails in favor of the resolution than against.
“We want the city to be G-rated,” he said.