Republican candidate loses absurd legal bid to ban kids from reading queer books

Gender Queer: A Memoir next to a set of LGBTQ books

A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit which sought to ban young people from reading two queer books.

The lawsuit was filed in April by former Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman against the publishers of the two LGBTQ+ books: Gender Queer: A Memoir and A Court of Mist and Fury.

Altman had asked the court to issue a restraining order against the distribution of both books to minors, effectively removing them from public availability.

In a petition to the court, Altman claimed the novels were inappropriate for children, citing Virginia’s obscenity law.

The case was dismissed on Tuesday (30 August) by Virginia judge Pamela S. Baskervill on the grounds that state law doesn’t give her the authority to determine whether the books are appropriate for minors.

Baskervill argued in her dismissal that preventing the distribution of the novels would authorise “prior restraint” of speech and violate the First Amendment. She also aired a concern that, should the books be restricted, distributors would be prosecuted for violating a ruling they weren’t aware of.

She initially allowed the case to proceed in May on the grounds that the books could be found potentially obscene due to depictions of sex, but eventually opted to overturn the case.

In response, Altman’s attorney Tim Anderson claimed that the judge had misinterpreted the case’s intentions, saying: “This was never about trying to ban gay literature or trans literature. This was simply just saying these [books] have really sexually explicit content and it’s not appropriate for kids.”

He also explained that his intention was to establish a “one size fits all” clarification on what is obscene for both children and adults alike.

The nullification of the lawsuit stemmed from a motion challenging Altman’s case from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the novel’s publishers.

ACLU attorney Matt Callahan said: “We are pleased with the outcome of today’s proceedings. The First Amendment protects literary expression, even when some people find portions of the works difficult or objectionable.

“All people should be able to choose what they wish to read.”

LGBTQ+ books for minors have come under increased scrutiny lately by anti-LGBTQ+ protestors calling them “propaganda” and a form of “indoctrination.”

Several libraries, including one in Iowa, have been hit with several complaints threatening a mass boycott if LGBTQ+ books aren’t banned.

The Vinton Public Library saw a mass walkout on 8 July after losing two directors in the span of two years over the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ censorship, as well as the removal of books by democratic leaders Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.