The Economist reports on Vegan Stripping in Portland:
Peaceful, green, and liberal, Portland has a reputation for being unusually socially conscious. So visitors are sometimes surprised to learn that it is a plausible contender for the title of lewdest place in America. It has more strip clubs per head than any other city; in its compact downtown, sex shops are scattered amid the bookstores, coffee bars and social services. This is apparently down to the combined influence of west-coast liberalism and frontier manners. (In the 1960s, there was a public outcry in Oregon when the Bureau of Land management briefly renamed one “Whorehouse Meadow” with the euphemistic “Naughty Girl”.)
Like most articles on this topic, the author fails to touch on the real reason, however, Portland has so many strip clubs: Article 1, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution.
Courts and voters (e.g. Oregon Ballot Measure 19 in 1994, and Measure 31 in 1996) agree: the Oregon constitution provides greater individual freedom of speech than the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution.
“[W]e have little trouble in concluding that the people who framed and adopted Article I, section 8, as part of the original Oregon Constitution intended to prohibit broadly any laws directed at restraining verbal or nonverbal expression of ideas of any kind.” – State v. Ciancanelli (Oregon Supreme Court, 2005)
So in Oregon you can’t zone “strip clubs” or “adult bookstores” into particular “nightlife” districts, nor can you label anything they provide “obscene.” Oregonians (I’m a particularly proud one) take freedom of speech seriously.