ATLANTA - The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals once again has ruled against adult retailer Sherri Williams and several co-appealers in Williams' long-standing fight to overturn the section of Alabama's obscenity law that criminalizes the sale of devices "primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs."
The recent decision marks the third and final time the Williams case has been before the Eleventh Circuit. In District Judge Lynwood Smith's first decision in the matter, he ruled that Alabama's entire obscenity law had no rational constitutional basis. When the appellate court decided the furtherance of "public morality" was a proper rationale to sustain the law, Smith found that the "obscene device" part of the statute violated plaintiffs' right to "sexual privacy."
Alabama once again appealed Smith's decision, and while that appeal was processing, the U.S. Supreme Court came down with its landmark ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which seemed to affirm the plaintiffs' sexual privacy claim. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, although it again remanded the case to Smith, instructing the lower court to test the applicability of Lawrence to the matter at issue, but in keeping with the Eleventh Circuit's previous decisions.
This time, Smith found that the law did have a rational basis and the Lawrence case didn't apply; in its most recent decision, the Eleventh Circuit agreed.
"[While] the statute at issue in Lawrence criminalized private sexual conduct, the statute at issue in this case forbids public, commercial activity," the appeals court ruled. "To the extent Lawrence rejects public morality as a legitimate government interest, it invalidates only those laws that target conduct that is both private and noncommercial...As the majority in Williams IV so colorfully put it: ‘There is nothing 'private' or 'consensual' about the advertising and sale of a dildo.""
"I have successfully sued them for nine years to overturn this law, and I have no more appeals left," says Williams on her store's website. She is working now to raise enough money to bring a new lawsuit against the state of Alabama. Those wishing to contribute funds for Williams' petition for Supreme Court review can do so at MyPleasureStore.com.