Love Stuff in Alabama: Supreme Court Rules Morality Can Be Constitutional Basis for Product Bans

150px-Flag_of_Alabama.svgAlabama Supreme Court has joined the debate over morality being the sole basis for legislative restrictions on citizens. The court upheld the state ban on the sale of sex toys purely on the basis that such toys are viewed as immoral. Since Lawrence v. Texas, such morality based laws have been questioned on constitutional grounds. For a prior column, click here.

At issue is Section 13A-12-200.5(4) which prohibits such sales “within 1,000 feet of a church, place of worship, church bookstore, public park, public housing project, daycare center, public or private school, college, recreation center, skating rink, video arcade, public swimming pool, private residence, or any other place frequented by minors.” It would be simpler to just ban it outright rather than pretend a tailored zone restriction when the law includes any residence, church bookstore or place with kids.

The case of 1568 Montgomery Highway, Inc. v. City of Hoover involves a business called Love Stuff in Hoover, Alabama where sex toys are sold to adults.

bolin_thThe Alabama Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the majority can ban such sales as offensive to the majority of the citizenry. Associate Justice Michael F. Bolin wrote “[p]ublic morality can still serve as a legitimate rational basis for regulating commercial activity, which is not a private activity”. It relied on the earlier decisions of the Eleventh Circuit and Fifth Circuit that such laws can be defended as rationally based on morality grounds. The court distinguished the Lawrence case.

The court ruled:

in rejecting Love Stuff’s federal constitutional challenge to [the law], we agree with the interpretation given Lawrence v. Texas by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Post-Lawrence public morality can still serve as a legitimate rational basis for regulating commercial activity, which is not a private activity. As the 11th Circuit pithily and somewhat coarsely stated: `There is nothing `private’ or `consensual’ about the advertising and sale of a dildo’.

The case could make for a fascinating appeal and finally put the question of morality legislation squarely before the Supreme Court. However, Justice Sotomayor would be an uncertainty on the question (as opposed to David Souter who would likely have voted to strike down the law).

Here is the opinion: Alabama decision

87 thoughts on “Love Stuff in Alabama: Supreme Court Rules Morality Can Be Constitutional Basis for Product Bans”

  1. Speaking of running amok, my posts I type over a few seconds worth of reflection. For the most part they are brief and to the point. Buddhatrolls’ are laced with malice, verbose, and spin off into irrelevancies. Buddhatroll, your posts display the ideation of a paranoid, narcissist who is sounding more and more desperate.

  2. Gyges,

    But on the other hand, isn’t discrediting bad ideas part of what we are supposed to be doing? I see this as a case of you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. I do see what you are saying and I agree to an extent, but do not hunters bait traps? Do they no use the animal’s instincts against them?

    The answer is of course yes, but within the confines of troll management? It’s a bit of a conundrum with the One Rule, hence posing the question.

    Let’s examine three cases. Byron, bdaman and Wayne.

    I think they make good case studies in troll combat.

    1) Byron: We have an example of an admitted troll who later came around to a more open minded stance through his sparing with the regulars. Although a self-identifying Republican and classical conservative with an Ayn Rand fetish which in itself is a disability (I kid! I kid! – except for the Rand bit), he went on to become a valuable contributor. A net add despite the costs incurred in showing him the Red Pills.

    2) bdaman: Classic troll. Paid to do it and admitted as much. There was no educating him. He had a set agenda and when every attempt to assert that agenda failed, he fled. Feeding him had no net negative effect because his arguments were not based in logic and fact. This is 95% of all trolls.

    3) Wayne: We have an example of troll that shows no sign that he’s capable of logic like a sane person. I agree that feeding him and his delusions are not just bad for conversation, but bad for him. Any mental health professional will tell you not to feed delusional behavior. Once marginalized, he should not be encouraged. This is the smallest percentage of the trolls we see here – the actually mentally defective.

    But how can we tell which result we will get without “spilling a little blood”? I don’t think we can. I think the best we can do is be vigilant and know when to literally cut bait.

    When the non-logic resistant show up trolling, like our own beloved Byron did those many moons ago do we not do them a disservice by not showing them a new way to think of things? Do we not create a disservice by not challenging their world view? Sometimes the path to enlightenment requires strategies that invite the unenlightened to examine the nature and errors of their thinking by seeming to agree with them. I know I’ve used this tactic before and I’ve seen the Mike’s, mespo and Bob use it too. If we don’t “feed” them to a certain (and I agree, it needs to be minimal) degree this becomes a more difficult and in some cases impossible task. How can one determine if logic or troll bashing techniques are required without first getting as much information on the declarators mindset as possible? I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but I do not think Byron would be where he is today if we hadn’t used similar “feed to disarm” tactics against him. He might be, he’s a pretty sharp guy, but I’m thinking it could have and would have been a longer process for him to reach his “Eureka!” moment without it. (B, please feel free to chime in on this.)

    Like I’ve said before, I’m not into drawing blood just to do it. No one here knows how much I hated to do that when I was recently forced to be as vicious as I can be. I really, really didn’t like to have to exercise those skills. But I don’t see how we can 1) wrangle trolls like bdaman and Wayne into a position of being discredited (a necessary function) and 2) simultaneously reach out to the non-logic proof like Byron without some, I won’t say accidental, but unintentional feeding happening. Opening minds is always a win.

    While I think the triage tool of above is a clear delineation (wrangle v. feed) in describing the options, I think it’s a clear sharp tool being applied to a fuzzy subject. These two polar examples though combined with bdaman’s “pure troll” example, I think illustrate both the challenge and the benefits to troll wrangling. I just don’t see a way to totally avoid the risk of feeding trolls and reach either outcome. I suggest that the best we can do is a minimizing strategy with regards to feeding: do it no more than is required to discredit their arguments and if they are logic proof, then to discredit the speaker. To that end, yes, wayne is largely set to be ignored. But I think to let him run amok without referencing his being discredited has risks too.

  3. The paranoid features you are beginning to display are as interminable as buddhas’. Do you actually believe half of what you post?

  4. Clever response Mike. When you are asked a question, or feel challenged, assign the fellow-blogger to the ranks of “sociopathy”. Where did you say you got your MSW degree from? Do you even know what the definition and features of this personlaty disorder are? I think in your case, just having the last word, is ultimately what allows you to feel vindicated. Read my posts today, I have not attacked anyone with any name-calling. I esteemed you a little to much maybe Mike..

  5. Buddha,

    Just a thought: My dog gets food from me leaving a roast on the counter, regardless of if I was letting it rest or leaving it up there for him to get.

    When they put up “don’t feed the bear” signs out here, the signs generally talk about the unintended feeding as well as the intended.

  6. Mike,

    Actually, yours is much more relevant and on topic. Mine was picked to be a distraction.

    I considered some Ives, but I just couldn’t work out that clever joke about “The Things our Fathers Loved” that I’m sure is in there. So we all had to settle for that ham fisted segue.

  7. The truth will be known at Res Ipsa Loquitor.

    Vince Treacy wrote that here:

    The truth is also multi faceted and demands to be examined from multiple perspectives. Over time an individual’s intent becomes clear from their words. We’ve heard a number of “brass bands” come thru practicing over their “loud speakers,” to paraphrase Mespo.

    Those who project rigidity and fear, with a sort of my way or the highway perspective don’t connect head with heart, not to say they can’t. They’re closed to examining truth from multiple angles. The dynamics of life require us to be resilient, raising our awareness. The ultra anybody’s continue to defend policy whose time has expired.

    Where is the line between “wrangling” and “feeding”?
    Jeeze thanks for asking BIL, I honestly don’t know. Who can say when an individual will drop their defenses of fear and respond to the stimulation of the pearls rolling around here?

    The above is an example of the squishy logic Bob, Esq. finds contemptible. (Is that Baez I feel breathing down my neck?)

    D’OUH Mike has Baez going already!

  8. Gyges,
    You being musically inclined are far above me in choosing apt
    expressions of musical comment. To my mind all I’ve got is:

  9. “What fun is a blog if everyone thinks alike? What you call “insolence”, I call ” sharing different spiritual and philosophical values”..”

    Or sociopathy Wayne?

  10. Buddha,
    My statement was regarding my feelings only and not a general caution, or chastisement for anyone else. I always enjoy your stuff, trust your judgment (mostly) and believe that you have made some of the most prescient comments on the psyche we’re dealing with.

  11. Buddha,

    If I may, and I will offer my unsolicited advice. It becomes troll feeding when the answers get more distorted that the original question or response than what was asked initially.

    I too have been guilty of baiting and being baited by lil ole billy the troll. As you can see, I have had nothing really to say since Friday as his stupidity or vapidness exceeds normalcy and hedges on indecency. Whatever normal is, I am not sure.

    Feed the trolls I enjoy reading your responses to them. The one that gets to me is when someone tries and reasons with them. Sometimes stupidity cannot be reasoned with. We are all aware that they have an agenda that does not comport with the request of the Blawg owner.

    I will state again, when I have time, I like to feed them as well. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. No skill, not a sport but sometimes it is just fun to get rid of frustrations on idiots without any personal ties to them. I can shut off the computer and know that that is the best I did for the day.

  12. CCD, Mike, Tom and any other regulars (mespo, et al.),

    This is a legitimate question and I’ll only respond to legitimate answers from those addressed above.

    Where is the line between “wrangling” and “feeding”?

    Debunking and discrediting, to me, fall under the category of wrangling. It’s stopping their memes.

    Arguing within the trolls parameters, i.e. letting them direct the conversation, is feeding. It’s fostering their memes unless it’s merely a step toward debunking and/or discrediting.

    I agree that feeding is bad, but I also think wrangling is necessary. I don’t think what Mike was doing fits under “feeding” though. Keeping propagandists from high jacking multiple threads is a valid concern. So where do you think the line is drawn? Is it a fine line distinction or a fuzzy logic? I think it’s pretty straight forward as delineated above, but I’d like to hear what the qualified regulars think.

  13. What fun is a blog if everyone thinks alike? What you call “insolence”, I call ” sharing different spiritual and philosophical values”..

  14. Mike,

    No praise for the music? It’s well known among certain circles that the quickest way to redirect a conversation is to play a recording of “A Love Supreme” as performed by what appear to be graduate students.

  15. “Mike is it really sporting to attract individuals who only impersonate sanity?”

    It isn’t and he is. You are correct and my behavior in this does not meet the standards I set for myself. What set me off is the insolence of his trying to hijack yet another article and thread, but I really should have taken FFLEO’s original advice on the matter, with due respect to him, I will now follow yours. Kudos also to TomD.Arch for his reminder.

  16. Tom,

    Guns are essential to personal freedom. The ability to engage in actions that effect only yourself and others who are willingly involved, but that the majority of people disapprove of based on religious beliefs isn’t.

    Good sex isn’t a victimless crime, think of all those Good Christians forced to think about all the stuff their neighbor might be doing.

  17. “Church bookstores”? Really? Also, does one who claims that “morality” would prohibit a certain product being sold have to make any sort of specific argument as to why that product is “immoral”? Somehow, I’m guessing that the “immorality” is “obvious” and is never actually spelled out.

    On these “distance based” restrictions: they really need to scale with density. I’m thinking here of the “sex offenders” living under a bridge in Miami. Many of these restrictions seem to be a bit problematic, but if you’re going to implement such a restriction, then it would seem to make more sense that in a rural area, a half mile might be reasonable, in a suburb 1000′ might be good, but in a dense city, these sorts of buffer zones need to be much, much smaller.

    Also, if a community finds firearms to be “immoral”, could such a law be used to shut down a gun shop?

    (Finally: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS! Simply do not engage or respond to them. They will go away. It’s just like dog training – don’t reward the bad behavior with attention and the behavior will stop.)

Comments are closed.