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March 22, 2017

Sandy Springs Repeals Sexual Device Law

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.—As expected, last night, the Sandy Springs City Council repealed subsection (c) of Section 38-120 in Article IV of Chapter 38 of the city's municipal code, better known as the "sexual device" ordinance. Prior to the vote, there was no discussion on the issue, in part because it had been placed on the "consent" agenda, which is, according to a report on Patch.com, "normally reserved for action items city leaders are content with allowing to move ahead without further debate." Another reason for the repeal was the fact that the local ordinance was patterned on one that had been adopted by the state legislature, but that was later invalidated, leaving Sandy Springs as one of the few communities in Georgia which retains a similar ban. "[The] code now matches up with state law regarding adult devices by not prohibiting the sale of such devices," said Sharon Kraun, a spokesperson for the city. While council members refused to comment on the repeal after the vote, City Attorney Wendell Willard told reporters that the law, which was enacted in 2009 and has been the subject of several lawsuits, was "unnecessary and expendable." “We don’t really have a problem with it [sexual device sales] in the city,” Willard said. “Why continue with the litigation?” Not reported so far is anything about the council's executive session, which took place before the repeal was voted, to discuss "litigation," which reportedly concerned the city's insurance company balking at paying the legal bills for some of the lawsuits the city has faced thanks to its restrictive adult business laws. This may include the lawsuit filed in 2013 by local retailers Flanigan's Enterprises and Inserection, as well as intervenors Melissa Davenport and Marshall Henry, all of whom wanted the ordinance overturned. “We are examining what effect, if any, the amendment eliminating the ban has on our clients and the pending appeal," plaintiffs' attorney Cary S. Wiggins told AVN this morning. "At this point we plan to move forward with the en banc hearing," referring to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision last week to stay its three-judge panel's upholding of the district court's dismissal of the suit. The clear import of the 11th Circuit's decision to grant an en banc hearing is that it will allow the lawsuit to proceed. The city has defended its entire anti-adult ordinance ever since it was passed in 2009, having hired Chattanooga attorney Scott D. Bergthold to defend the statute—which he himself had helped write. It is unknown how much Bergthold has billed the city for his services, but a recent article on the city of Brookhaven noted that that city had paid the attorney nearly $300,000 for defense of its own lawsuit, with future litigation in the case almost a certainty. But now, with the sexual device ordinance gone, City Hall employees may feel free to walk across the street to Inserection and purchase as many dildos, vibrators and other sex toys as they wish.

 
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