Alabama Set to Ban Sex Toys
Howard News Service, February 25, 2005
By Daniel Jackson
The owner of two adult novelty stores in Alabama, said
she has only one legal challenge left to the state’s 1998 law banning the
sale of sex toys.
If that fails, plaintiff Sherri Williams, owner of Loving
Enterprises, said she’ll remove the toys and stock the shelves with legal
pornographic videos and DVDs.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied her request for
a hearing in her lawsuit against the state, but the law will not be enforced
pending the final outcome of the case. After seven years of contradictory
court decisions, Williams said she was disappointed with the high court’s
“It’s such a roller coaster,” Williams said. “The
lower and higher courts don’t agree. One court says the government
shouldn’t intrude and one says, ‘yeah, we should.’ “
“Should the day come that I have to yank all the toys
out of my store, I’ll just fill it with adult videos. It’s illegal to sell
toys, but you can sell porn all day.”
On appeal to the Supreme Court, Williams and the American
Civil Liberties Union argued that a ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which
overturned a law banning gay sex, also protects the privacy of people who
purchase and use sex toys.
Six other states—Georgia, Mississippi, Indiana, Texas,
Louisiana and Virginia—also outlaw the sale of sex toys.
The Alabama law labels the sale of sex toys a misdemeanor
punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and one year in jail. A federal court
overturned the law, but the 11th Circuit of Appeals upheld it in a 2-1 ruling
The case now returns to U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith
in Huntsville who originally overturned the law. Williams said she will now
seek an answer to a question in a footnote of the appeals court’s decision
to uphold the law, which asked, “Should states be allowed to legislate
Chris Bence, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General
Troy King, said the court should base its decisions on factual application of
law, not morality. King has a duty to uphold laws passed by the Legislature,
and he will do so, Bence said.
If the law is upheld, King will work with local district
attorneys to enforce the law.
“The courts don’t deal with public perceptions. They
deal with factual law,” Bence said. “A lot of times, we as citizens
applaud the court’s action based on our feelings and moral values. Then a
week later, we’ll be criticizing the court.
“In our case, the attorney general does not have the
luxury of deciding the importance of laws. It (his oath) requires that he act
to defend and enforce all laws properly passed by the Alabama Legislature.”
Sexual devices and adult movies are in a back section of
Williams’ stores and are sold discreetly to adult customers, she said. The
boutiques, which are in strip malls next to restaurants and other retail
stores, have an elegant outward appearance, displaying only tasteful lingerie
that is no more obscene than the highly visible displays at Victoria’s
Secret stores in almost any mall, Williams said.
“They’re trying to get rid of the back-alley sleazy
sort of place,” she said. “I have the most upscale, high-end boutique
you’ll ever set foot in. I can’t believe the courts actually believe that
states should be allowed to interfere with people’s private decisions.”
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