Monday, November 19, 2007

Scrap the Sex Toys Law, and Let's Move On

I somehow missed this editorial by Frances Coleman in yesterdays Mobile Press-Register

Scrap the sex toys law, and let's move on

Sunday, November 18, 2007
There's no good place to begin a column about sex toys, so let's just jump right in.

If Alabama Attorney General Troy King had a lick of sense, he'd drop the subject. And if Alabama legislators had a lick of sense, they'd scrap the law that prohibits the sale of sex toys in the Heart of Dixie.

But the attorney general apparently is too busy worrying about what some Alabamians like to do behind closed doors to think sensibly on the subject.

As for legislators, if they perceive that voters might think they're in favor of sex toys, forget it.

I guess that's why they passed the law back in 1998 -- to show the folks back home that they're absolutely opposed to such perverted activity. Strangely, however, they left a little wiggle room in the law, saying that the sale of sex toys for "bona fide medical or other purposes" would be allowed.

Call me naive, but even though I'm a 54-year-old woman who came of age during the sexual revolution, I don't think I could describe more than one or two sex toys. As for what "bona fide medical purpose" such gadgets might serve, I'm an advocate of "don't ask, don't tell."

Meanwhile, here we are, stuck with a ridiculously invasive and hard-to-enforce state law that bans the sale of sex toys in Alabama.

Even though cops and rational district attorneys prefer to spend their time busting real criminals, every once in a while a purveyor of sex toys ends up in court, where a rational judge opines that the law is too vague to enforce.

From there, such cases may climb the appellate food chain.

The U.S. Supreme Court, to its credit, has refused to consider Alabama's law.

The 11th Circuit Court of

Appeals, on the other hand, earlier this year overturned a lower court's ruling that the Constitution includes a right to "sexual privacy." In the same decision, however, it suggested a way to end the round-robin of court cases.

"If the people of Alabama in time decide that a prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly," the court wrote, "they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter."

The 11th Circuit is not stocked with liberal judges, and its suggestion was worded mildly enough that no one would mistake it for judicial activism.

Still, when a court uses the words "misguided," "ineffective" and "just plain silly" all in one sentence, who could miss the point?

When judges say "They can repeal the law and be finished with the matter," they mean: Junk this law.

Back in 2003, a Birmingham Democrat named John Rogers tried to convince his colleagues to repeal it, but he couldn't get enough votes. In fact, at the end of that year's session, Rogers' fellow state legislators gave him their annual Shroud Award for the session's "deadest" piece of legislation.

With former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall urging people to send sex toys to the attorney general, with sex shop owners willing to fight the law in court, with the American Civil Liberties Union threatening to get involved, and with the attorney general's willingness to defend the law as it's written, isn't it time we took the 11th Circuit up on its suggestion?

There may be no good place to begin a column about sex toys, but there is a good place to end Alabama's sex toy saga, and that's in the Legislature.

Come on, senators and representatives: When you go back to Montgomery in February, screw up your courage and repeal this stupid law so cops and prosecutors can get back to enforcing the ones that really matter.

It's the right thing to do.

1 comment:

Just a Reader said...

Frances Coleman is my favorite columnist; J.D. Crowe is the most excellent of cartoonists; and, Loretta Nall, you are fast becoming my favorite blogger. Keep up the interesting work - I'd love to read more.