NEW ORLEANS -- Adult entertainers are once again clashing with legislators as a measure to raise the minimum age of exotic dancers is set for a discussion at the state capitol.
Last year a bill raising the age from 18 to 21 was signed into law by the Governor John Bel Edwards, but a federal judge blocked the bill citing its broad language.
At the heart of the debate, however, is how old should a woman be before she's allowed to work as an exotic dancer.
"I could fight for my country, but I can't strip," said "Diamond", a part-time exotic dancer. "It doesn't make any sense."
On the opposite side of the argument is Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House, a homeless shelter. He said women and men are exploited through exotic dancing. That's why he's been lobbying to raise the age to 21.
"I'm going to tell you that the vast majority are filled with drugs and prostitution, and that was discovered with Alcohol and Tobacco Control," he explained.
That point is where 18-year-old Diamond disagrees wholeheartedly. She said exotic dancing is carefully monitored by operators.
"I perform on Bourbon; I won't say the name of the club," she said.
We asked her why she's dancing.
"The income is good, it's better than minimum wage," she explained.
Dancing had to be put on hold when the law went into effect until a federal judge blocked the new age requirement citing the law as too broad. That's been fixed in a new proposal.
"We wanted to make sure that theater productions would not be caught up in this," said Kelly.
Diamond said exotic dancing isn't as twisted as some make it out to be. Some nights Diamond said she makes a couple of hundred dollars. That's better than any other job she said she can take as an 18-year-old.
However, if Kelly and supporters can push through the new bill, Diamond will be back to finding another gig.
"I think we're going to see less young women dancing in clubs being exploited, being possibly recruited by human traffickers by pimps, that's what I believe is going to happen if we pass this piece of legislation," Kelly said.
The proposal is set to be heard in a State Senate committee Tuesday morning.
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