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OTTAWA - Group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday as it lifted a ban on so-called "swingers" clubs.
In a ruling that radically changes the way courts determine what poses a threat to the population, the top court threw out the conviction of a Montreal man who ran a club where members could have group sex in a private room behind locked doors.
"Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
The decision does not affect laws against prostitution because no money changed hands among the adults having sex.
'Bawdy house' proprietor's appeal
The court was reviewing an appeal by Jean-Paul Labaye, who ran the L'Orage (Thunderstorm) club. He had been convicted in 1999 of running a "bawdy house" - defined as a place where prostitution or acts of public indecency took place.
Labaye - who is still running L'Orage despite his earlier conviction - said he was relieved, and would now go ahead with a new venture with backing from a group of Florida investors.
"We hope clients will be more calm. This will probably lead the way to a good future," he told reporters, saying he was looking at adding a Jacuzzi and a swimming pool.
Labaye said he had about 2,000 regular clients who paid around $20 ($17 U.S.) a year for a membership card.