Court Declines to Review Ban on Sale of Sex Toys
Advocate, February 23, 2005
The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to review the
constitutionality of a state law banning the sale of sex toys, rejecting an
appeal that said consumers have a right to sexual privacy. Without comment,
justices let stand a lower court ruling that said Alabama had a right to
police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the challenge on
behalf of merchants and users seeking to overturn the 1998 state law. They say
the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence
v. Texas, which decriminalized gay sex on privacy grounds, protects
sex toy users from unwarranted state intrusion in their homes. “The sexual
devices covered by the statute have many recognized beneficial uses and are
used by consenting adults in deeply private acts that are beyond the reach of
government regulation,” argues the filing on behalf of Sherri Williams, an
adult-novelty retailer, and seven other women and two men.
A divided three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th
U.S. circuit court of appeals disagreed. It said in a ruling last July that
siding with the sex toy merchants could open the door to the legalization of
undesirable sexual behavior such as prostitution. “If the people of Alabama
in time decide that prohibition on sex toys is misguided or ineffective or
just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter,”
the court said.
The state law bans only the sale of sex toys, not their
possession, and it doesn’t regulate such items as condoms or virility drugs.
Residents also may lawfully purchase sex toys out of state for use in Alabama
or use them if the devices have other recognized medical or therapeutic uses.
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