Alabama May Soon Be Last State to Ban Sex Toy Sales

Alabama may be the last state to forbid the sale of sex toys because a federal court ruling that overturned a ban in Texas may also end a similar ban in Mississippi.

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Texas law making it illegal to sell or promote obscene devices violated the Constitution's 14th Amendment on the right to privacy. Mississippi is also in the 5th Circuit; Alabama is in the 11th Circuit.

This week the attorney general's office in Mississippi said the Texas ruling may make that state's 25-year-old ban unenforceable.

"It's still on the books, but the 5th Circuit ruling will make any defense of the law problematic," Assistant Attorney General Harold Pizzetta said Tuesday. "It will put our statute in jeopardy."

A year ago, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Alabama's ban as constitutional, saying "the state's interest in preserving and promoting public morality provides a rational basis for the challenged statute."

The U.S. Supreme Court last year then declined to hear a Huntsville business woman's challenge to the Alabama law.

Sherri Williams, who owns Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, has spent more than nine years fighting the ban. She said the Texas ruling could encourage the Alabama Legislature to change the law.

Rep. John Rogers Jr., D-Birmingham, is sponsoring a bill that would delete the relevant few lines from the state's 1998 Anti-Obscenity Act.

The proposed bill would not affect Alabama's prohibitions against nude dancing or other forms of obscenity, but would remove lines barring the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs."

Williams said she has printed 5,000 postcards to be sent by her customers to lobby their legislators.

"Maybe now that they're the only one standing they'll listen," said Williams.

Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia are the only states with obscene-devices laws. But Virginia's law is somewhat different and does not seem to ban the sale of sex toys, according to parties in the Texas case.