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Judge asked to strike down law that got Utah movie theater in trouble for showing ‘Deadpool’

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge is being asked to strike down a portion of Utah’s liquor law that forbids full nudity and sex acts from being shown in places were alcohol is served.

In a court filing obtained Saturday by FOX 13, the attorney for Brewvies said the “vagueness and overbreadth of (the law) have a devastating impact on the First Amendment rights of Brewvies, other Utah liquor licensees, and their customers.” He asked the judge for summary judgment, ruling in favor of Brewvies in its lawsuit against Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Brewvies is suing the DABC over action the liquor control authority is taking over its license after it showed the movie “Deadpool.” Brewvies, a downtown area movie theater that also serves alcohol, could lose its license for showing the action comedy. A part of Utah liquor law forbids liquor licensees from showing full nudity or certain sex acts. “Deadpool” has scenes of nudity and sexual conduct.

Photo: 20th Century Fox / MGN

Photo: 20th Century Fox / MGN

Brewvies previously got in trouble for showing “The Hangover Part II,” and was warned again when it showed “Ted 2” and “Magic Mike XXL.” When it faced revocation of its license over “Deadpool,” the theater filed a lawsuit against the DABC commission, challenging the statute.

Brewvies attorney Rocky Anderson argued that the law would prohibit a Utah liquor licensee from showing works of art, sporting events, pop culture images, or even a nursing mother. In his court filing, he attached images of athletes slapping buttocks, crotch grabbing, magazine covers like Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, and master works of art like Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus” or Michaelangelo’s “David.”

“The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City would apparently be subject to a substantial fine and suspension or loss of its privilege to use wine at its sacrament because of its display of an image of the flagellation of Christ at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, which serves wine as sacrament and, therefore, may be regulated by the DABC,” Anderson wrote, attaching this picture:

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In his filing, Anderson said a deposition revealed that assistant Utah Attorney General Sheila Page, assigned to the DABC, instigated the only complaint against Brewvies over “Deadpool,” after she learned the theater was showing it from a friend. Anderson said that led to three undercover officers from the Utah State Bureau of Investigation going to Brewvies to watch the comedy.

“No one has yet described any of the ‘Deadpool’ scenes suspected as being in violation of Subsection 7 by the State Investigative Bureau officers and the DABC employees as being anything other than funny, irreverent, and romantic— except Sheila Page, who, not having seen the movie, sought an investigation because it is ‘raunchy,'” Anderson wrote.

Anderson argues the law is a violation of Brewvies’ First Amendment rights and asks for it to be struck down, calling it “censorship.” The Utah Attorney General’s Office will respond to the motion for summary judgment before U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer makes a ruling.

The DABC has agreed to take no enforcement action against Brewvies while the lawsuit is pending.