November 4, 2009


Saying that the City's action "raises serious constitutional concerns," the Rhode Island ACLU has called on Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle to rescind a decision that has prevented a sexuality education center from opening in the city. In a letter to the Mayor released today, Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown labeled as "pretextual" the city's purported reasons for barring the center from operating in Pawtucket.

The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH) intends to provide sexuality education to adults and consultation services to institutions of higher learning. However, in September, shortly before the Center's planned opening, city officials received an inflammatory email insinuating that sexual activity would be taking place at the Center. The ACLU letter claims that city officials "reacted to this misinformation reflexively, and inappropriately," with zoning officials quickly advising the Center's director, Megan Andelloux, that its location was not zoned for "educational" use and that it therefore could not open as planned.

Questioning that rationale, the ACLU letter points out that there are other educational businesses, including a chess academy, operating in the same building. In addition, the letter points to comments from the City's director of administration, Harvey Goulet, who was quoted as objecting to "this type of business" as "not really something we feel is appropriate for our city." Those comments, said the ACLU's Brown, further make clear that the city's zoning arguments are "pretextual," and that "the city's intent is to suppress the speech that would otherwise occur at the Center. Such content-based discrimination raises serious constitutional concerns."

Brown also called the city's actions "particularly unfortunate because it is very rare for women to be able to obtain feminist perspectives on human sexuality and objective information regarding sex in a women-friendly environment." The letter concluded by urging the Mayor to reconsider the city's actions and "permit the Center to open in the very near future."

Andelloux is presently administratively appealing the zoning denial. A copy of the RI ACLU's letter can be found here.

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