Alabamas Sex Toy Ban Is Overturned
The Associated Press, March 29, 1999
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) A federal judge on Monday overturned
Alabamas ban on sex toys, saying the state had no reason to prohibit the sale of the
U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith of Huntsville found the states 1998 law is
"overly broad" and in violation of due process rights because it bears no
"rational relation to a legitimate state interest."
"We succeeded in kicking the government out of our bedroom," said Sherri
Williams, who sells sex devices at stores in Huntsville and Decatur and joined in a suit
challenging the new law.
Under the statute, selling or distributing "any obscene material or any device
designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs"
is a misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
The law hasnt been enforced pending the outcome of the suit.
The law was challenged by Ms. Williams and five other women who either sell the devices
or said vibrators are necessary for sexual gratification they cannot get otherwise.
The state attorney generals office, which could file an appeal, said the ruling
is under review.
In his 84-page ruling, Smith wrote that "a majority, or at least a significant
minority, of the proscribed devices, as a matter of law, are not obscene under any
established definition of obscenity."
He emphasized that people who used the devices would be "denied therapy for, among
other things, sexual dysfunction."
The plaintiffs claimed the ban violated privacy rights by indirectly prohibiting adults
from engaging in legal acts in their own bedrooms.
However, Smith did not support that argument. Citing Supreme Court precedents, he wrote
that "this court refuses to extend the fundamental right of privacy to protect
plaintiffs interest" in using the sex toys.
Amy Herring, an attorney representing plaintiffs, said her clients would not drop the
privacy complaint if an appeal was filed by the state.
She said the judge took a "conservative approach to that issue since the Supreme
Court has only gone so far, but it doesnt mean wed drop the argument. The
Supreme Court could decide to extend the right to privacy."
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