Judge rules against LGBTQ+ book ban, orders titles to be returned to library shelves in ‘ringing victory for democracy’

Child in library Texas book ban

A judge in Texas has ordered books banned for containing LGBTQ+ and racial content must return to shelves within 24 hours. 

As reported by CNN, in April 2022, seven residents sued Llano County officials for removing 12 books from public libraries which were deemed ‘inappropriate’ as they focused on topics of gender, race or sexuality. 

The plaintiffs claimed their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated by the removal of the texts. 

The books included Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings and Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group

Issuing an order in the case, Judge Robert Pitman said the physical books must be returned to shelves and the library is required to show the texts as available in its catalogue. 

“Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination,” CNN quoted Pitman as saying.

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Defendants in the case, which includes library staff, a judge and country commissioners, argued the books were removed as part of a regular “weeding” process. 

Pitman, however, disagreed with this and stated that outsiders had influenced decisions over removal of the books. 

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He said: “Whether or not the books in fact qualified for ‘weeding’ under the library’s existing policies, there is no real question that the targeted review was directly prompted by complaints from patrons and county officials over the contents of these titles.

“And, notably, there is no evidence that any of the books were slated to be reviewed for weeding prior to the receipt of these complaints; to the contrary, many other books eligible for weeding based on the same factors appear to have remained on the shelves for many years.”

According to the order, community groups had labeled multiple books “pornographic filth” due to “acceptance of LGBTQ views”. Other targeted titles were by authors of colour and explored racism and the experiences of Black Americans.

Ellen Leonida, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, described the win as a “ringing victory for democracy”.

“The government cannot tell citizens what they can or can’t read,” she said. “Our nation was founded on the free exchange of ideas, and banning books you disagree with is a direct attack on our most basic liberties.”

The order comes as the US sees a boom in books being banned, particularly those which contain content, themes and characters related to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Alice Osman, the author of graphic novel series Heartstopper, has slammed book bans as thinly-veiled homophobia.

“Racism, homophobia and transphobia are thriving under the guise of ‘concern for children’. This is not just a US issue either,” Oseman warned. “We’re seeing the exact same ‘concern’ here in the UK.”

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Trans author Juno Dawson has also hit back at book bans, which have seen her works censored.

The This Book Is Gay author said the bans are happening because the “far-right is out of ideas”.

“What else can you attack but trans healthcare, drag queens, books,” she said.

“So I just want to say a huge thank you to all the librarians and educators who are defend ending freedom of speech and the right for young LGBTQ+ people to see themselves in books. Stand strong in full solidarity.”

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