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  • Alyssa Spencer

Booksellers File Lawsuit Against Texas Law That Requires Stores To Rate The Sexual Content In Books

Books at Vandegrift High School's library on March 2, 2022. A new Texas law requires book vendors to apply ratings to all titles before hitting bookshelves. Credit: Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune


On Tuesday, July 25th a group of booksellers filed a lawsuit over Texas House Bill 900 which will require stores to rate the sexual content in their book before selling them to schools. The bill will also require books previously sold to schools to be rated. The law is set to take effect in September. The booksellers are claiming that the law “violates” their First Amendment rights.


The bill was signed into law earlier this year by Governor Greg Abbott, and will go into effect September 1st. According to the complaint filed with the Austin federal court:


“Plaintiffs, a coalition of booksellers, publishers, and authors, bring this action to enjoin the enforcement of H.B. 900,1 a recently enacted law that bans books deemed “sexually explicit” and restricts access to books deemed “sexually relevant” in public schools (the “Book Ban''). The Book Ban, which is scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2023, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution 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. The Book Ban compels Plaintiffs to express the government’s views, even if they do not agree, and operates as a prior restraint, two of the most egregious constitutional infringements.”


This complaint has come about as conservatives have been fighting battles in multiple school systems across many states to eliminate sexually explicit materials from public school libraries. Many videos have gone viral of parents going to school board meetings and reading from these books out loud, in order to showcase how explicit the material is. 


Mark Smith, the former director of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission made a statement against the bill saying, “The bill will interfere with student learning and achievement by blocking access to materials that have been restricted.”


One of the supporters of House Bill 900 is Cindi Castilla, who is the President of the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative think tank. She voiced her support for the bill with this statement:


“Our schools must not sexualize our students or provide them pornographic reading material or introduce them to inappropriate materials that distract from the educational goals we’ve set as a state,” she said.


The passing of House Bill 900 was a huge win for conservatives this year. It remains to be seen whether or not these disgruntled booksellers will be able to successfully fight against this law, as this has been a hot button issue in 2023.


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