Last edited: January 01, 2005

Court Overturns Alabama Sex Toy Ruling

The Associated Press, October 14, 2000

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—A federal appeals court overturned a ruling that had found Alabama’s ban on the sale of sex toys unconstitutional and sent the case back the lower court to reconsider.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith of Huntsville ruled last year that legislators had no legitimate interest in passing the law. The judge described the law as "overly broad" and said it violates due process rights because it bears no "rational relation to a legitimate state interest."

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday disagreed with that ruling, saying the law "is rationally related to the state’s legitimate government interest in public morality."

In sending the case back to Smith, the panel told the judge to consider whether the law might be unconstitutional for other reasons.

Their ruling said Smith had "analyzed neither whether our nation has a deeply rooted history of state interference, or state non-interference, in the private sexual activity of married or unmarried heterosexual persons nor whether contemporary practice bolsters or undermines any such history."

Attorney General Bill Pryor said Saturday that he was pleased with the ruling. "Our duty is to defend the laws of Alabama," he said.

The statute deems selling or distributing "any obscene material or any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" to be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The law was challenged by six women who either sell sex aids or said they needed them for sexual gratification. The spokeswoman for the group, shop owner Sheri Williams, could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The law hasn’t been enforced, pending completion of the legal challenge.

Alabama Code, Section 13A-12-200.2:

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