Note this - the official Alabama State Motto -
"Audemus jura nostra defendere" has been translated as: "We Dare Maintain Our Rights" or "We Dare
Defend Our Rights." This Latin phrase is on the state coat of arms completed in 1923.
According to a Birmingham
News-Age Herald article by Marie Bankhead Owen (the director of the state Archives) dated April 23, 1939, she came upon
the idea while searching for "a phrase that would interpret the spirit of our peoples in a terse and energetic sentence."
A part of a poem entitled "What Constitutes a State?" by the 18th-century author Sir William Jones found in Bartlett's Familiar
Quotations includes the stanza "Men who their duties know. But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain." The motto
was translated into Latin by Professor W. B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama.
And thereby hangs a tale…
ONE: The Manufacturer Cheers
Good Vibrations Celebrates Lift of Alabama Sex Toy Ban
Names Sex Toy "The Alabama Slammer"
San Francisco, CA -- October 3, 2002 -- An Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys was struck
down this month by a federal judge as a violation of the right to privacy. "The fundamental right of privacy, long recognized
by the Supreme Court as inherent among our constitutional protections, incorporates a right to sexual privacy," said U.S.
District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr.
To celebrate this triumphant occasion, legendary San Francisco-based sex toy store
Good Vibrations has re-named a popular bright red personal massager "The Alabama Slammer." Sex toy-starved Alabama residents
can reclaim their right to own vibrators, dildos and other adult products by purchasing the vibrant red Alabama Slammer --
or any other Good Vibrations merchandise -- at a 15% discount during the month of November.
For the last four years
Good Vibrations has supported the American Civil Liberties Union case against the Alabama sex toy ban. The 1998 law -- part
of a package of legislation strengthening the state's obscenity law -- banned the sale of devices designed for "the stimulation
of human genital organs."
In 2000, as part of an effort to raise awareness around the Alabama legislation, Good Vibrations
collected an emergency supply of sex toys and collected nearly $10,000 worth of product from generous vendors to distribute
to the unfortunate, toy-less masses in Alabama.
Good Vibrations, the "clean well-lighted place to buy sex toys," supports
every person's right to sexual pleasure. Throughout the ban Good Vibrations argued that sex toys are not obscene and sexual
gratification is indeed a basic human right.
As Good Vibrations Sexologist and author Dr. Carol Queen says, "Alabama
may have maintained that 'there is no fundamental right to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm,' but
we strongly disagree, and have for the last four years. What exactly do they think the constitutional right to the pursuit
of happiness means?"
I’m not sure the
Founding Fathers had these products in mind. But the idea is clear – the government has no business legislating
here. This is all a personal matter.
The counterargument might be that the state has a compelling interest in
banning certain activities, no matter how private, as such activities create a permissive and perverse mindset or attitude
that can do real, substantial and irreparable harm to the general good. Proving that certain harm might be difficult.
Asserting that harm is not difficult. I suspect the idea is that sexual activity that is not directed toward procreation
is a real problem. It leads to the breakdown of the family – the basic social unit. And that hurts everyone.
Thus we should stop such private activity.
TWO: The Legislature Acts and Refuses to Remove
Link Expired - April 29, 2003 – Associated Press
The Alabama House voted against a bill Tuesday that would have removed a ban on sexual devices,
such as vibrators, from the state's obscenity law. ....
A federal district judge in Birmingham has twice ruled that
the ban is unconstitutional. The first ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the second ruling has
been appealed to the appeals court.
... The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said because of the
court ruling, the obscenity law is unenforceable as long as it contains the ban on sex toys....
With little serious
discussion, the House voted 37-28 to leave the sex toys ban in state law, leaving Rogers standing at the microphone shaking
his head. “What you just did is make our obscenity law illegal. You voted for obscenity,'' Rogers shouted at lawmakers.
But I see
what Rogers means. Leave this ban on these gizmos in the law and then the whole anti-obscenity law remains unconstitutional.
Well, they left the ban on these gizmos in the law – they thought it was important to the welfare of the state’s
To hell with the courts!
THREE: The Stunning Reversal as a Federal Appeals
Court Rules - The Constitution Does NOT Include a Right to Sexual Privacy
11th Circuit upholds Alabama sex toy ban
Jay Reeves - The Associated Press 7/28/2004, 5:22 p.m. CT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a 1998 state law banning the
sale of sex toys in Alabama, ruling the Constitution doesn't include a right to sexual privacy.
In a 2-1 decision,
a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state has a right to police the sale of devices including
electronic vibrators and other products meant to stimulate the sex organs.
"If the people of Alabama in time decide
that a prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished
with the matter," the court said. "On the other hand, if we today craft a new fundamental right by which to invalidate
the law, we would be bound to give that right full force and effect in all future cases including, for example, those involving
adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like."
Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett disagreed, writing that the
decision was based on the "erroneous foundation" that adults don't have a right to consensual sexual intimacy and that private
acts can be made a crime in the name of promoting "public morality."
"This case is not, as the majority's demeaning
and dismissive analysis suggests, about sex or about sexual devices. It is about the tradition of American citizens from the
inception of our democracy to value the constitutionally protected right to be left alone in the privacy of their bedrooms
and personal relationships," Barkett wrote in her dissent.
Yeah, but she’s a
woman and thus may own, or even use one of these gizmos.
Note the court is saying that asserting this hypothetical
Constitutional right to sexual privacy – by ruling that there may be such a right – they would be opening the
doors to all sorts of evils like incest, prostitution, and, who knows, possibly sex with box turtles. It’s that
slippery slope, or that slippery gizmo in this case.
CHAPTER FOUR: TBD
Above the federal appeals courts sit the nine justices of the US Supreme Court. Will the ACLU and
the Good Vibrations folks find a way to move this up to the ultimate panel?
Can you imagine the oral arguments?
(Don’t even THINK it!) What a hoot! Scalia and Clarence Thomas (oh my!) discussing the "The Alabama Slammer"
while Sandra Day O’Conner rolls her eyes? Maybe Anita Hill could argue the case for the ACLU and the Good Vibrations
This could be great fun.
The moral Christian right conservatives in Alabama would have then made
things difficult for the ruling Republican leaders of our country. Their mantra is keep government out of our lives.
But does that mean an adventurous woman, alone at home, cannot make use of "The Alabama Slammer" because the government says
so? Which is it – less government intrusion, or government mandated private behavior? Make up your mind.
What a pickle!
I can’t believe I said that.