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. A bigot is an individual who holds a prejudice against a racial or religious group based on some illogical fear or bias. If you despise the Catholic Church for this reason, you would be a bigot. John Kennedy faced the spectre of Bigotry when he ran for the Presidency due to many ignorant people feeling that he would have to confer with the Pope or the Holy Office in Rome, prior to making critical decisions that shaped domestic and foreign policy. Of course this was “illogical” and he was elected to the white house. Those people who shared these beliefs were bigots…

  2. If you “despise” the church because of having religious teachings that do not coincide with yours, you would be a bigot. Also Mike, I don’t have to google DSM. I studied it and use it regularly to better assist my clients’.. I defended my belief cogently and with facts regarding the problems within the Catholic Church. I believe(and rightly so), that the continued ordination of actively homosexual men, who have displayed a proclivity toward underage males is the problem. Screening out these applicants prior to admission into the seminary and laicizing them immediately after they go “wrong” are deterrents that need to be used without surcease.

  3. “I challenged you and gave my learned and logical and well thought out opinions.”

    Where you go off the tracks is in thinking that other than claiming erudition, Googling the DSM and throwing around immature insults, while at the same time doing obnoxious bragging, you have contributed anything to the discussions that represents either learned or logical. Most of your many posts are one or two liners, empty of content. Initially, you began having a contribution to make, albeit imbued with the above mentioned personality quirks, but you then quickly descended into your RCC cheer-leading, that was anything but learned or erudite. I’m not referring to your beliefs, but to your injection of them, without the ability to defend them and to your inability to comprehend what was being replied to you.

    In my case you called me an anti-Catholic bigot and then when I shared some of my childhood memories, you expressed total disbelief that I could have Catholic friends or even have attended masses. It was in your expression that the truth of you was revealed, which is that your agenda has always been to put forth your beliefs in the RCC and that is where Wayne left off lo these many months ago.

  4. My positions are always rationl buddha and logical. I try to bring “EVERYTHING” to its’ logical conclusion…

  5. Buddha, Mike, I am not a troll. Correct I stay on the topics that interest me, usually religion and some element of science. I challenged you and gave my learned and logical and well thought out opinions. Because we come to different conclusions is fine. What is somewhat amusing is how many of you spend an inordinate amount of time bashing me and referring to me as a “troll”. I like to contribute as well. In the future, lets’ try to be a little more civil to one another. The beauty of this world and this blog is that people can come together and share different ideas about a variety of subjects. JT I think wants everyone to share and kinda have a laugh at the irony and outrageousness of “life”. Many of these topics are pretty funny, lets’ try to keep that in mind shall we.

  6. “Personally my rule is that when the thread reaches 100 posts and a third are in response to mindless trollisms, I think we have left the shores of “wrangling,” and are headed full bore to the maelstrom of “troll feeding” across some very choppy waters. Multiple troll postings is a corollary to my rule. I like to call my rule “Troll Defenestration For Dummies.”

    A simple rule perhaps, but I think it captures the essence of my thinking on this, in that it gives voice to what I think gets me so annoyed with trolls. When I see a potentially interesting discussion hijacked by one person, leading it away from the pertinent points of interest it annoys me. This post by you and Buddha’s really helped me to clarify my own thinking as to why I sometimes react as I do.

    To me the Alabama story that started this thread had two very interesting aspects:

    1. Then tendency of the US to respond with hypocrital overreaction to the idea of people enjoying their own private sexuality.

    2. The use of the law to try to suppress sexuality based on the false premises of religious zealots.

    The comments were initially not anti-RCC, in fact it being Alabama we know that the RCC wasn’t a factor and yet it became so because of Wayne’s actions. We’ve seen this same personnal do the exact same thing in the past and it is anooying to the extent that dealing with this person cuts short discussions and topics that are not only interesting, but relate to JT’s overall intention in maintaining this site.

  7. Gary,

    You bring up yet a finer distinction. In the technical sense, people like Billy aren’t really trolls in the propaganda troll sense like paid trolls bdaman and Byrne or those who simply had a little too much kool-aid before showing up like Byron. They’re not really trolls so much as unbalanced. They just engage in trolling behavior but it probably has less to do with political beliefs than . . . other issues. However, this does not negate their behavior. That their driver is non-rational should factor in, but I don’t see how except in a posterior manner: one cannot fathom the motives or thoughts of an individual without exposure and evidence.

    To that end, and this is a more open ended philosophical question, what does it matter the source of a bad idea as long as it is challenged and/or refuted?

  8. I agree with Gyges on this point.

    My goal is interesting and thought provoking conversation.
    Designating dispositively trollhood to someone on the basis of a few posts *where the content of those posts* one disagress with, is abusing the designation.

    On the basis of what I saw Billy posting here alone, I would not assert he is a troll, but then I am A LOT more tolerant of others’ perspectives who regularly post here.

    Billy seemed to be asserting his perspective, w/o ctl-c ctl-v, it seemed to be based upon thinking and rationale, and his reasoned opinion. I didn’t agree with most of it, but that has no bearing on trolldom.

    If a poster is acting mechanically, not responding on-point to the topic or posts directed at them, if they are posting third party content willy-nilly, has mostly ad hominems to say about others, well then I would say those red flags put them into the troll category.
    Short of that, to accuse them of being a troll because you just don’t like what they are saying, relevant content-wise, well then you are letting your own bias and illiberalism show through.

    How does the famous quote go “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it”.

    It is only when speech is affirmatively abusive should it be pilloried.

  9. mespo & gyges,

    Good points. Volume ratios and sport trolling are indeed considerations. I will stipulate motive should not be a sole factor, but one of many.

    And not all threads are equal troll attractors either. There are some subjects that bring them out of the woodwork (torture, war crimes, RCC, etc.).

    That adds yet another layer.

  10. Buddha,

    We all draw the line in different places here. I’ve got my own code that I try and follow, and I don’t expect anyone else to follow it.

    Personally, I’m much less interested in convincing others and correcting errors than I am in having interesting conversations. So my policy generally revolves around engaging people who I have interesting conversations with. That’s highly subjective, my interesting conversation is my wife’s “are you still going on about that?” I engaged IS several times when I knew he was trolling, because I found conversations with him interesting. There have been a few “regulars” that I just skimmed over most of their posts because I didn’t really find them all that engaging.

    I just wanted to point out that one has to consider that our motivation shouldn’t be the sole determining factor in determining if we’re feeding the trolls.

  11. Buddha:

    “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.”


    Personally my rule is that when the thread reaches 100 posts and a third are in response to mindless trollisms, I think we have left the shores of “wrangling,” and are headed full bore to the maelstrom of “troll feeding” across some very choppy waters. Multiple troll postings is a corollary to my rule. I like to call my rule “Troll Defenestration For Dummies.”

  12. Mike,

    One lives to be of service.

    Especially today. Extra time on my hands as I am home with a sinus infection. The powers that be may have given me a fairly good brain, but I got hosed in the sinus department. I’ll live if the daytime TV doesn’t do me in first. The cats and dogs are really enjoying it though. Out sick in my house is the equivalent of “Designated Petter” unless I’m asleep.

  13. CCD,

    Yes, good point. Lack of original content and sticking to published special interest talking points over logic is a good indicator as to the nature of a troll as well.

  14. BIL:

    The criteria could be individuals who are logic proof and
    display Ctrl- C and Ctrl-V issues.


  15. Buddhapest,

    Ah ha, that is you. I knew it, I knew it all along. It was not that Welsh Rabbit and Mushrooms after all. Thank God.

  16. Buddhapest,

    You are responsible for my trouble too. You must take the blame. You probably do not understand that you were in Dallas that fateful day in Nov for JFK.

    Just accept responsibility for that delusion as well. I bet you profited off of Oliver Norths gun dealing and should have been convicted along with him as well.

    So were you near Michael Jackson when he died? You can answer this can’t you. Time for accountability buddhapest troll.

    You and Mike S appear to be lil ole billy’s issue. Take stock see where you have erred and lip smack billy, wayne. They need love too. Just remember kiss, kiss, smack. You like it like that

  17. “Speaking of running amok, my posts I type over a few seconds worth of reflection.”

    And it shows.

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