Book ban law stays blocked


Key portions of a law signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott requiring booksellers to rate books for sexual content when selling to schools will not go into effect after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to re-consider an earlier decision.

It’s a win for booksellers, especially independent ones, who sued the state last year saying the law violated the First Amendment and would devastate their businesses.

Valerie Koehler, who owns Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, said she was happy about the ruling, but the law has already caused a chilling effect that has led to lost orders.

“The damage to us is mitigated by the fact we don’t have to review every book and rate every book that we’ve sold to the school library,” Koehler said of the court’s decision. “But the damage has been done in terms of the libraries across the entire state have changed their policies in a way that make it hard for new books to get in.”

School libraries have become a target of the right in recent years, with lawmakers and activists petitioning to pull dozens of titles off the shelves, many of them related to LGBTQ identity and relationships.


In January, a panel of three judges on the conservative-leaning 5th Circuit sided with their argument and blocked the book-rating requirement from taking effect. The panel found it violated their freedom of speech and put bookstores and publishers at risk of “irreparable” financial harm. The judges let stand another section of the law establishing statewide library standards that ban “sexually explicit” books in public schools.

The full 17-member appeals court, which was weighing whether to re-consider the previous decision, voted 9-8 to let it stand.

See here, here, and here for some background. Nine to eight is too close for comfort, but it counts. Whether this gets appealed to SCOTUS is an open question – I think it’s more likely than not, but who knows – and there’s a good chance SCOTUS might just ignore it. Of course, the next Lege could rewrite this law to make it slightly less unconstitutional and hope that’s enough to sway at least one of those Fifth Circuit holdouts. About the only thing we can do about that is elect a better Legislature. Add this to the list of reasons to be motivated.

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One Response to Book ban law stays blocked

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    This is like the PMRC, the Parents Music Resource Center, which wanted to force record stores to put labels on rock n roll records.

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