While the injunction will expire, the court said that it will soon release a written order overturning the controversial book ban in its entirety.
A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against a controversial Texas law that would establish a so-called “book rating system,” which intends to ban or otherwise restrict the availability of literature featuring sexual content from public schools.
According to The San Antonio Express-News, Austin-based Judge Alan D. Albright said on Thursday that the state could not begin enforcing its law.
While Albright’s injunction will expire, he told both parties that he intends to publish a written order—expected some time in the coming weeks—that will block the book ban from taking effect in its entirety.
The decision, notes the Express-News, will likely be appealed to the conservative-leaning 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The law, H.B. 900, was approved earlier in this year’s legislative session. It broadly requires school library vendors to rate all of their books and other materials for “appropriateness.”
Appropriateness, under H.B. 900, largely relates to sexual content, depictions, and references.
Two open books; image by Aaron Burden, via Unsplash.com.
Vendors must also rate any materials previously sold or lent to schools, and issue recall notices for any that are deemed explicit.
The plaintiffs—a coalition of Texas bookstores and vendors—argue that H.B. 900 is a clear violation of their constitutional rights, with the law weaponizing open-ended language to target what would ordinarily be considered protected speech.
If H.B. 900 were to be enforced, plaintiffs say, they would be forced to comply with the government’s views on morality, even if they personally disagree with such views.
Furthermore, the vendors allege that they cannot possibly comply with the rating system, which would require them to proactively review vast amounts of material, including material that has already been disbursed to schools and has been in active circulation for years.
“We are grateful for the Court’s swift action,” the plaintiffs said in a statement, released shortly after the court issued its injunction.
The decision, plaintiffs say, preserves “long-established rights of local communities to set their own standards,” while upholding the “constitutionally protected speech of authors, booksellers, publishers, and readers.”
Conservative proponents of the bill have since derided the verdict, with Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Fisco) saying that the H.B. 900 was written with “sound policy built upon multiple Supreme Court cases defending freedom of speech.”
“I would encourage book vendors and the far-left activists funding this lawsuit to celebrate with caution,” said Rep. Patterson. “This case is far from over. We will continue to fight and we will win.”
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