Several bookstores and national bookseller associations filed a lawsuit Tuesday over a new law intended to keep sexually explicit books from Texas schools.
Bookstores Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston and BookPeople in Austin have partnered with several bookseller associations – including The American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – to sue several Texas leaders over House Bill 900.
HB 900, which goes into effect Sept. 1, requires vendors to assign a “sexually relevant” rating to books that include depictions or portrayals of sexual activity. Students would have to obtain parental consent before being allowed to check out “sexually relevant” books.
The plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit that the law violates the First and 14th Amendments “because it is an overbroad and vague content-based law that targets protected speech and is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.”
Blue Willow Bookshop owner Valerie Koehler says she’s worried the new law will hinder her business.
“It could easily put our business out of business by having to spend the time – which is money – to rate these books,” Koehler said, according to KVUE. “This whole idea of ‘not just explicit sexual content but sexual content,’ or some sort of relevant content, we don’t know it.”
Cindi Castilla, who leads the late conservative Phyllis Schlafly’s Texas Eagle Forum, disagrees, arguing vendors should know what they are selling and promoting.
“They should be cautious what they’re putting in front of other people’s children, and that’s the problem. It’s other people’s children that are having access to these books, not their own,” Castilla said.
State Rep. Jared Patterson, who sponsored HB 900, promised on social media he won’t back down.
“To Texas parents and taxpayers who have fought along our side, I say we are neither surprised nor unprepared,” Patterson wrote. “To those standing against Texas schoolchildren I simply say, bring it with everything you have because I don’t want to hear any excuses when we put the final nail in the coffin of your woke agenda.”
The lawsuit names three defendants: Mike Morath, the Texas Commissioner of Education; Martha Wong, the chair of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; and Kevin Ellis, the chair of the Texas State Board of Education.
The plaintiffs are asking for a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of what they call a “book ban,” as well as unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.