Today’s Central Florida news is all abuzz with stories of a salacious “sex club” operating in Melbourne, Florida. The Hunt Club of Brevard describes itself as follows:
The Hunt Club is a private, members only, on premise group dedicated to helping its members explore the alternative lifestyle in a safe, secure environment where they can be themselves along with others who share common interests. Think of it as a dinner party with a little extra. We are not a business, merely a group of people who want to make new friends and have parties. (source)
Enter the neighbors – and law enforcement
Operators Richard Spalding and Kirsi Page deny that anything illegal goes on during these parties. By all reports, the noise level is kept low enough to satisfy the lightest sleeper, everything occurs behind closed doors, and they go so far as to keep all parked cars off the street and behind a gate.
“What you see when you come to a party is a group of adults mingling, flirting, laughing and sometimes dancing. The parties are very quiet, to the point that you cannot hear any noise out on the street in front of our house,” Page stated. (source)
Nevertheless, the thought of a party where people were having non-missionary sex was just too much for a few of her neighbors in Melbourne’s Oak Grove Acres subdivision.
Prompted by complaints from neighbors, two undercover Melbourne police officers — one male, one female — posed as a couple, and toured the house in late-March, Police Chief Don Carey said.
No lawbreaking activities were noted, Carey said — “they were consenting adults doing stuff in private that wasn’t criminal” — and the police investigation was closed with no charges filed. (source)
I’d like to call for a round of applause for Chief Carey. Usually when the neighbors complain and cops get sent to one of these places, they just can’t resist the temptation to engage in circus-atmosphere raids with film crews in tow. The cops then throw down some ludicrous charges to justify the circus, a few city council members use it as a campaign stop, the swingers pay a bunch of attorneys fees, and they ultimately prevail. (examples)
Larry Groves was likely one of the complainers. Last Friday night, he was with a group of neighbors exercising their First Amendment rights by protesting the club’s activities.
One large sign displayed the message “The Hunt Club Not Wanted Here.”
Despite their efforts, Groves said more than 20 vehicles pulled into the driveway and parked in the backyard.
“Some of the cars left, and came back with their tags taken off. Some of them didn’t care,” he said.
Groves said he is worried about crime and sexual predators.
“This is a dead-end cul-de-sac. We don’t have any bylaws in the development here that prevents anything like that. It can happen in any neighborhood in Melbourne,” he said. “Whether they broke the law or not, the intent is not good for a quiet community. We’re trying to protect our investments and our lifestyle and our morality level.” (source)
Mr. Groves (the ass hat of the week, by the way) should have removed his head from his ass before speaking to the press. Crime and sexual predators? “Our” morality level? Lions, and tigers, and bears!
Florida is home to dozens of swingers clubs. Not one has been the subject of a sexual abuse allegation, let alone a conviction. (compare that record to Central Florida’s Catholic churches). With respect to “crime,” it seems that the Hunt Club doesn’t even want its guests to have a DUI, let alone commit crimes. See Hunt Club Etiquette.
I think that it is safe to say that either the newspaper mischaracterized Groves’ statements or he is a liar. The Hunt Club is a party, not a crystal meth lab or a gang hangout.
What really rubs me the wrong way is Groves’ claim that his neighbor’s parties impact his “lifestyle” and “morality level.” It seems that if he would mind his own business, his lifestyle would be just fine. As far as his “morality level” goes, if his morality is so fragile that it can not stand in opposition to that of the Hunt Clubbers, then his “morality” is false indeed.
A freedom of association issue
The Melbourne Police, despite their principled position that nothing illegal goes on at the Hunt Club parties, have not taken the swingers out of their crosshairs.
“It’s my opinion that the people there are operating a business out of their home. They’re violating the zoning in that area, because they’re not allowed to have customers in their home,” [Chief] Carey said. “It is a business. If they feel differently, they can challenge us in the courts.”
I think that Chief Carey has this one wrong, and if the Hunt Club challenges him in the courts, they should prevail. The Hunt Club is clearly not a business. It is a group of like-minded individuals gathering on a regular basis for a common purpose. That is called “freedom of association,” and we fought a Revolution to secure that right.
Whether Mr. Groves like it or not, the same First Amendment that protects Groves’ right to protest the existence and location of these parties gives the Hunt Club party participants the right to peaceably assemble — whether that assembly is to discuss the bible, make quilts, or to simply be around others who don’t mind having multiple sex partners. The Constitution doesn’t care why you are peaceably assembling — just that you are peaceably doing so.
Free speech and group association are inseparably intertwined, one being undeniably enhanced by the other. See NAACP v. Ala. ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958). The Constitution not only protects the freedom of citizens to join together to discuss and further their common beliefs, but affirmatively demands it. Moreover, the right to associate for the advancement of beliefs is “an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.” Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652, 666 (1923).
The Hunt Club’s members believe that polyamorous relationships are the way to go — and they get together to further that belief. They have a right to assemble for this lawful purpose. Mr. Groves has a right to protest. No government official has the right to get in the way of either one. Perhaps the club’s website puts it best:
I have to ask myself what about the groups that have bible study in their homes and take donations or the chamber groups that have network meetings at their homes and also take in donations… is the chief going after them??? (source)
No, no he isn’t.