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Sheri Williams at the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. Williams, who now lives in Florida, owns Pleasures adult toy shops in Huntsville and Decatur and recently opened an adult video store in Huntsville.
AP photo by Susan Walsh
Sheri Williams at the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. Williams, who now lives in Florida, owns Pleasures adult toy shops in Huntsville and Decatur and recently opened an adult video store in Huntsville.

Owner of Decatur store takes sex toys case to Supreme Court

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — The owner of an adult store in Decatur launched her final appeal Monday against a state ban on selling sex toys, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the bedroom.

If the court declines to take the case — as it did in 2005 — Alabama residents shopping for sexual novelties could soon have to look outside the state's borders.

"A person should have the right to make their own decision to explore their sexual boundaries outside what some government official says is moral," Sherri Williams said outside the Supreme Court before filing the appeal. "A little vibrating piece of rubber can't possibly harm anyone."

Williams has waged a mostly losing battle against the law since the state Legislature passed it in 1998.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt her the latest blow on Valentine's Day, upholding the ban as constitutional and saying "the state's interest in preserving and promoting public morality provides a rational basis for the challenged statute."

So far, however, the state has held off on enforcing the law as the case winds through the appeals process.

The Alabama attorney general's office declined an interview Monday, but Solicitor General Kevin C. Newsom has argued that "whatever the specifics of the statute, the principle at issue in the case is an important one."

In rejecting the plaintiffs' argument that public morality is an insufficient basis for legislation, he has argued that the 11th Circuit "recognized and reiterated that the 'law is constantly based on notions of morality.' "

"The morals of who and based on what era?" Williams responded Monday, arguing that the case could set a nationwide precedent.

The Alabama "anti-obscenity" law bans the sale of sex toys but not their possession. State 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 law doesn't regulate other items, such as condoms or virility drugs.

Williams, who now lives in Florida, owns Pleasures adult toy shops in Huntsville and Decatur and recently opened an adult video store in Huntsville.

Until recently, she had been represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. But she said she parted ways with the organization and hired private lawyers for her current appeal to take a different approach.

She said she will continue selling toys until "they handcuff me," and that if the ban is enforced, she will probably convert the stores to adult video stores.

"That's the funny thing: I can sell porn all day long but I can't sell a vibrator?" she said.

Alabama is one of a handful of states, many in the South, with bans on the sale of sex toys.

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

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