AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Texas bookstores filed a lawsuit Tuesday in hopes of blocking a state law from going into effect that would require sellers to rate books based on their sexual content and possibly result in the removal of titles from school library shelves.
BookPeople in Austin along with the Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston are suing several Texas leaders over House Bill 900, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month. The plaintiffs also include the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
They claim this law, which is set to go into effect on Sept. 1, is unconstitutional and should be blocked by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. They contend it particularly violates the First and Fourteenth 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,” according to the complaint filed Tuesday.
According to the way the law’s written, companies that sell books to Texas schools will now have to include a rating. Vendors can no longer sell a book they deem “sexually explicit.” If a school already has it, then the law reads the company would have to “issue a recall” and take it back. The law also stipulates that another rating for books sold to school libraries is for “sexually relevant material,” which is defined as an item that “describes, depicts, or portrays sexual conduct.” In this case, a student wanting to check out or save a book with this rating could only do so if the school has “written consent from the student’s parent” or guardian.
During an interview Tuesday afternoon with KXAN, Charley Rejsek, the CEO of BookPeople, said she sought to challenge the law because it would create an unrealistic demands for bookstores and book vendors that work with Texas schools.
“It’s just a really heavy workload that will take hundreds of people thousands of hours, and there’s no funding for that workload,” Rejsek said. “I just don’t see a clear path forward of how to comply without resources and funding to to carry the workload as outlined.”
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.
Abbott is not named as a defendant in this lawsuit. He previously said the law will set new standards for Texas school libraries to keep what he called sexually explicit content off shelves. This particular law will require vendors to rate books they sell to school libraries based on their depictions or references to sex, and that could result in pulling some titles.
Texas Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, sponsored House Bill 900 during the regular legislative session and put out a statement on social media Tuesday slamming the news about the lawsuit.
“To Texas parents and taxpayers who have fought along our side, I say we are neither surprised nor unprepared,” Patterson wrote in his statement. “To those standing against Texas schoolchildren I simple 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.”
This is not the first legal challenge filed recently against Texas leaders. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Monday against Abbott over the state’s floatation barrier along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass that the federal government claimed violates international and federal law.
Almost two weeks ago, several parents, doctors and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations sued Texas over Senate Bill 14, which aims to ban transgender minors from receiving certain health care options.