A federal judge said Thursday he will stop a new Texas law aimed at keeping sexually explicit materials off of school library shelves on the eve of the law going into effect, according to state attorneys and lawyers for a group who sued over the proposal.
District Judge Alan D. Albright indicated during a hearing that he will grant a temporary injunction sought by a group of book groups and sellers, including two Texas bookstores, who sued the state over House Bill 900 in July, the group’s lawyers said in a statement. Albright will issue a written order in one to two weeks; in the meantime, the state cannot enforce the law, according to the statement.
HB 900, which was approved during this year’s regular legislative session, requires school library vendors to rate all their books and materials for appropriateness before selling them to schools based on the presence of sex depictions or references. It also requires vendors to rank materials previously sold to schools and issue a recall for those that are deemed sexually explicit and are in active use by a school.
The plaintiffs argue that the law violates their constitutional rights by targeting protected speech with its broad and vague language. The lawsuit further alleges HB 900 would force plaintiffs to comply with the government’s views, even if they do not agree with them, and that the law operates as prior restraint, which is government action that prohibits speech or other expression before the speech happens. The vendors say it is impossible for them to comply with the rating system because of the sheer volume of materials they would need to review.
“We are grateful for the court’s swift action in deciding to enjoin this law, in the process preserving the long-established rights of local communities to set their own standards; protecting the constitutionally protected speech of authors, booksellers, publishers and readers; preventing the state government from unlawfully compelling speech on the part of private citizens; and shielding Texas businesses from the imposition of impossibly onerous conditions,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement after the hearing. “We look forward to reading the court’s full opinion once it is issued.”
See here and here for the background. This too will be appealed, and the standard “Fifth Circuit be crazy” warnings apply. I have two suggestions for you for this holiday weekend. One is to visit Austin’s BookPeople and/or Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop if you can, as they were among the plaintiffs in this case and they’re probably in a good mood right now. The other is to make a pledge to support whoever runs against Sen. Angela Paxton and Rep. Jared Patterson, the authors of this piece of shit. Now go read a naughty book and enjoy the day off.