Welcome to Sandy Springs, Georgia. Located just north of Atlanta, this city of 93,853 boasts IBM and Cisco Systems as its top employers, but you won’t find cutting edge innovation here. In fact, it could be said that some of its ordinances are just plain backward.
In April, 2009, Sandy Springs mayor Eva Galambos signed into law amendments of sections 38-119 and 38-120 of the city, noting “the City has a substantial government interest in protecting order and morality” from “commercial distribution of obscene material” and “establishments which trade in indecent and obscene materials.”
The first amendment makes the showing of breasts “public indecency,” therefore banning breastfeeding. The second amendment makes it so anyone selling, renting or leasing obscene material (or offering to do these things) commits the offense of distributing obscene material, even if the obscene material is an undeveloped roll of film or a printing plate or a hard drive that may contain the potential for obscenity.
But that’s not all. Also obscene are devices marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of the genitals — unless it is primarily a form of birth control, like ribbed condoms.
The affirmative defense for that amendment is proof that the obscene material was sold, rented, leased, etc., for “a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose.”
Basically, if you want a vibrator in Sandy Springs, you need to ask your doctor for a prescription.
Melissa Davenport and Marshall Henry refuse. Davenport told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that she filed a suit against the city to get the government out of people’s private lives.
Their attorneys are challenging the ordinance on Fourteenth and First Amendment grounds:
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment grants an interest in and a right to privacy and to liberty. The Sandy Springs Ordinance significantly, substantially, and needlessly infringes on Plaintiffs’ interests in and rights to privacy and liberty. Plaintiffs have a right to be free from governmental intrusion regarding the most private human conduct: their consensual sexual behavior in the privacy of their own homes. Because the Sandy Springs Ordinance impinges — greatly — on this right for Plaintiffs, the Ordinance violates their Due Process rights.
The First Amendment arguments against “obscene” materials, you’ve all heard before, but if you’re curious, the lawsuit is here.
The city is expected to file a response by June.
Header image features the covert Mia USB-rechargeable vibrator from LELO. Photo by Kimli.