Indiana Supreme Court upholds Indy smoking ordinance

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The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the Indianapolis no-smoking ordinance in a unanimous ruling Monday, saying the city can ban smoking in bars while allowing it in gambling facilities.

In 2012, Indianapolis’ no-smoking ordinance was amended, removing an exemption for bars and taverns but exempting businesses licensed as satellite gambling facilities.

The Whistle Stop Inn sued, claiming the ordinance violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution because it failed to treat bars as it did gambling facilities.

Hoosier Park stepped in as a defendant and filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court.

The Court of Appeals overturned the trial court, saying the ordinance did violate the equal privileges clause and separated the satellite facility exemption, giving the rest of the ordinance its intended effect.

But the Supreme Court said the ordinance meets the two-prong test for determining a statute’s validity. The first is that “the disparate treatment accorded by the legislation must be reasonably related to inherent characteristics which distinguish the unequally treated classes.”

The exemption says the gambling facility must include a description of the heating and air conditioning units, smoke removal equipment and other devices, and Whistle Stop said this was not an inherent difference. However, the Supreme Court said it was, because without providing this description, the facility could not be licensed as a satellite gambling facility.

The Supreme Court also said that an ordinance does not have to identify all distinguishing characteristics of each class and the reason for the distinctions when passing class-creating ordinances.

The second prong of the Collins test is that the preferential treatment must be uniformly applicable and equally available to all persons similarly situated. The restaurants and bars are not similarly situated with gambling facilities, the Supreme Court said. They are separate businesses that provide separate services and have separate licensing requirements.

The ordinance also does not violate solely economic rationales, as Whistle Stop claimed, though that shouldn’t matter, Justice Brent Dickson wrote. Ordinances like the one in question focus on the treatment the ordinance accords, not the reasons why. Even so, the reason for the ordinance is to protect the health of the public, not for anything economic, Dickson wrote.

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