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Court upholds sex toys' sale ban
Devices won't disappear from shelves in state until appeals process complete

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A federal appeals court issued a Valentine's Day ruling upholding an Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys. But the devices won't disappear from store shelves, including at one Decatur store, immediately.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alabama's sex toy ban is constitutional because "the state's interest in preserving and promoting public morality provides a rational basis for the challenged statue."

Chris Bence, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the plaintiffs have additional appeals left and the state agreed years ago not to enforce the law until the case was completed.

The lead plaintiff, Sherri Williams, said she was disappointed the 11th Circuit dated its ruling "on the very day this nation celebrates romance."

Williams owns Pleasures adult toy shops in Decatur and Huntsville.

The ruling, made public Thursday, was issued by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit. Williams can ask the full court to review the case and, if rejected, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — two steps she said she hopes to take after reviewing the ruling with her attorneys.

In 1998, the Alabama Legislature enacted a law that bans the sale of sex toys, but not their possession. Alabama residents 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.

The Alabama law doesn't regulate other items, such as condoms or virility drugs.

Williams challenged the law, as did seven other women and two men, who represented consumers of the products.

They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Various issues in the case have been circulating through the federal courts for years, but the new ruling from the 11th Circuit is the one attorneys on both sides had been awaiting.

Alabama's solicitor general, Kevin Newsom, said he was pleased the 11th Circuit rejected the plaintiffs' argument that public morality was an insufficient basis for the legislation.

"In rejecting that view, which necessarily would have invalidated traditional prohibitions on, for instance, incest, polygamy and prostitution, the 11th Circuit recognized and reiterated that 'the law is constantly based on notions of morality,' " Newsom said.

In previous appeals to the 11th Circuit, Williams and her attorneys had argued that the law was an unconstitutional intrusion into bedrooms, but the 11th Circuit held there was no fundamental right to use sexual devices.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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