Alabama Supreme Court upholds sex toy ban

photo by steakpinball

We have a special place in our hearts for Sherri Williams: the owner of a sex toy store called Love Stuff in Hoover, Alabama, she has been fighting her state’s ban on sex toys since the law was enacted in 1998. Yep, you read right, 1998: this isn’t an antiquated law Williams is trying to scrape off the books, it’s a shiny new law to keep all good vibrations out of Alabama. Sadly, her 11-year legal battle just hit a dead-end in the state’s Supreme Court: They voted 7-2 to reject a challenge to the state law that bans the sale of sex toys except for limited purposes.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: The 1998 Alabama law makes it illegal to buy or sell sex toys for anything other than “medical purposes.” It’s legal to own and use toys that you bought out-of-state, but it’s burn-in-hell illegal to advertise, sell, or buy a toy in Alabama if it’s meant purely for pleasure. (Viagra, of course, is still 100% legal.) Your first offense can get you a year in jail and a $10k fine; your second offense can earn you up to a decade in the ‘Bama slammer. There are similar laws in Georgia and Mississippi, and there used to be a similar law in Texas, as we lamented in our Home Shopping Network spoof. Happily, in 2008, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans struck down the Texas law, saying it violated the right to privacy.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Love Stuff a few years back. However, Love Stuff’s attorney said they are considering another appeal based on conflicting rulings on sex toys from two federal appeals courts — because in 2007, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Alabama’s law and said the state could regulate commerce that it considered harmful to the public.

Love Stuff will continue to sell sex toys; however, customers must sign a form stating that they are buying the toys for one of the permitted reasons. Customers who’d rather not lie in order to buy a pocket rocket will just have to cross state lines to do their sex toy shopping. But something tells us this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Love Stuff in the courts. As Sherri Williams said in an earlier interview about her crusade, “They are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand.”