Back in 2003, when Sherri Williams was in the midst of fighting for her right to sell dildos, vibrators and other "devices designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," she realized that while her lawsuit might succeed, it couldn't hurt also to attempt a legislative route.
Williams thereupon hired lobbyist John Teague to find an Alabama legislator who would be willing to introduce a bill that would strip the prohibition on "obscene devices" from Alabama law – and Teague found one in the person of Rep. John W. Rogers, Jr. (D-52nd Dist.), who introduced a bill to "amend Section 13A-12-200.2 of the Code of Alabama 1975, relating to obscene material; to delete the prohibition of certain devices for sexual stimulation."
For his trouble, Rogers was given the "Shroud Award," "honoring" the "deadest piece of legislation" offered that year. Rogers' deletion of the "obscene device" language beat out a bill requiring automobile restraints for children, one limiting service in the legislature to those younger than 70, one establishing a digital Streamline Sales and Use Tax Agreement, and one requiring sterilization of animals sold by humane shelters. Legislators actually put a copy of Rogers' bill in a coffin and walked it up the aisle to the "well" at the front of the chamber, asking Rogers "to swallow his overdue dose of medicine and accept the 2003 Shroud Award for his arousing effort to remove the prohibition on the sale of marital aids."
Undeterred, Rogers introduced the same bill in succeeding years, and this year, it's been designated as House Bill 12, which, if finally passed, would delete the language "or any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" from Alabama's obscenity law, allowing the sale of vibrators, etc., to go forward.
"I went back to the lobbyist I used, John Teague," recalls Sherri Williams, "and I said, 'John, I spent nine-and-a-half years fighting this, and can you believe I lost? I've only got one shot left: Can we get this bill in front of the legislators one last time?' And he said, 'Yes.' So we went back to Rep. John Rogers, and he agreed to prefile the bill, and it's sitting in front of the legislature right now, and if they do like they did the last four years consecutively, they will refuse to vote on it because they don't want that coming up on their voting record."
Despite Williams' apparent pessimism, she's doing all she can to get the bill enacted.
"I put together a postcard campaign, and I've got all my customers and any other adult store customers that would like to get involved mailing postcards to the House members encouraging them to actually vote on it," Williams said. "I printed labels for the 10 House Reps that are assigned to the districts my stores are located in, and printed so far almost 5,000 cards. I gave out almost 2,000, and what we do is, we get the majority of them to fill it out at the counter, and we sell them a stamp, so we've already mailed out 2,000. What's happening is, people are coming in and saying, 'Can I get a stack of these to hand out at work?' I'm like, okay, but we're only giving them 25 at a time, so they have to come back after the 25. It's a huge, huge response."
The card, which bears the headline, "Stop Government from intruding into the bedrooms of law abiding citizens!", quotes the text of the bill, gives a short history of Williams' fight and notes, "Yes, for 9 Years, the State of Alabama has spent hundreds of thousands of TAX DOLLARS to defend a law that bans the sale of sexual aids to adults for use in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Now they must spend hundreds of thousands of TAX DOLLARS upholding this law. WHY? ... Doesn't the State have more critical reasons to spend my tax dollars, than to police my personal & intimate choices?"
The legislature has until early May to pass (or defeat) the legislation, and Williams hopes that if enough adult store patrons from around the state send in their postcards, and with the legislators undoubtedly aware that their neighboring federal district recently struck down that exact "obscene device" law, this year, HB 12 just might have a chance of passage.
Williams can be contacted through her website, www.MyPleasureStore.com.