Last edited: July 31, 2004

Gay Sex Toys Banned in Alabama, July 29, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Birmingham, Alabama—A federal appeals court has upheld a 1998 Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys in the state, ruling the Constitution doesn’t include a right to sexual privacy.

On the surface, the suit may be considered whimsical, banning the sale of inflatable sex dolls, dildos, and playing cards with the pictures of naked porn stars on them, but the court’s reasoning is giving civil rights groups cause for alarm. And, the law that bans selling gay sex toys also forbids selling toys aimed at heterosexuals.

In its 2-1 decision overturning a lower court, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state has a right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating.

The case was brought by the owner of a store that had been charged with selling the toys and was fargued by the American Civil Liberties Union which argued that the Constitution included a right to sexual privacy that the ban on sex toy sales would violate.

The court said that accepting the ACLU argument could lead down other paths.

“If the people of Alabama in time decide that a 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’s written ruling said.

“On the other hand, if we today craft a new fundamental right by which to invalidate the law, we would be bound to give that right full force and effect in all future cases including, for example, those involving adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like.”

Attorney General Troy King said the court “has done its duty” in upholding the law.

Sherri Williams, the adult novelty retailer who filed the lawsuit with seven other women and two men, called the decision “depressing.”

“I’m just very disappointed that courts feel Alabamians don’t have the right to purchase adult toys. It’s just ludicrous,” said Williams, who lives in Florida and owns Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur. “I intend to pursue this.”

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr. of Huntsville has twice ruled against the state law, deciding in 2002 that the sex toy ban violated the constitutional right to privacy. The state appealed both times and won.

The state law bans only the sale of sex toys, not their possession, the court said, and it doesn’t regulate other items including condoms or virility drugs.

[Home] [News] [Alabama]