Virginia can’t force bookstores to card kids for books about gender and sexuality
On Tuesday, a Virginia Beach court dealt a major blow to would-be book banners trying to block private bookstores from selling two books to minors.
your lawsuit targeted Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A court of mist and anger by Sarah J Maas. Gender Queer was at the center many ban battles for his graphic sexual scenes, particularly his visual illustrations of oral sex. the petitioners argued the A court of mist and anger is “inherently sexually objectionable” for his illustrations of sexual acts and descriptions of “abusive and intrusive sexual intercourse.” Circuit Judge Pamela S. Baskervill, the came out Retiring to hear the case as all other judges had retired, dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of free speech and due process.
In May, former congressional candidate Tommy Altman and District Attorney Del. Tim Anderson (R-Virginia Beach), his legal counsel, filed two petitions under Virginia’s obscenity law to have the books as obscene for minors. she tries Requiring booksellers to obtain parental consent before selling these books to minors.
Virginia residents can file an obscenity petition if they believe someone is “involved in the sale or commercial distribution of an obscene book”. An obscenity petition can result with the court issuing “an injunction against the sale or distribution” of the book in question, which then assumes knowledge of the restriction on those distributing the title before a full trial has taken place.
in Virginia, obscenity includes “a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sexual conduct, sexual arousal, excretory functions or their products, or sadomasochistic abuse” as its “dominant theme or purpose.”
Also, “taken as a whole” a book must not have “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific merit” to be considered obscene.
Altman and Anderson specifically searched to discourage minors from purchasing Gender Queer and A court of mist and anger from Barnes & Noble and independent sellers. Barnes & Noble filed a brief supporting motion to dismiss the petitions, noting that they “fell woefully short of constitutional standards governing obscenity”.
For one, although the petitions claim that the books have “no serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors,” this is a conflation of “two laws applying different legal standards.” Although Virginians can petition under the profanity clause, nothing in this clause expressly mentions minors or applies to minors. Therefore, Barnes & Noble argued that the books could not be considered “obscene only… for youngsters”.
The petitioners have also not convincingly argued that the books meet the requirements General Standards of Obscenity. Barnes & Noble’s brief indicates that the petitions single out only small parts of the books as inappropriate for minors who flout the established standard of viewing material “as a whole” to deem it obscene.
The petitions “ignore the language of the Virginia statutes under which they were filed and assume that there have been no developments in First Amendment law for the past 65 years,” Barnes & Noble’s brief said.
Baskervill has not actually determined whether the books were obscene for minors, but she did note that the petitioners did not “allege sufficient facts to support a general finding of obscenity”. In addition, Baskervill found the Virginia Code obscenity statute “is unconstitutional at first glance.” It “authorizes a prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment and the Virginia Constitution,” she wrote, and “breaks due process by authorizing a judgment without notice to affected parties.”
In a way, this case was an unprecedented extension of the book front of the modern culture war. Since 1973, the Supreme Court “has not recognized any case involving literary obscenity, nor has it found any book obscene,” according to Barnes & Noble’s brief. The Virginia Beach petitions also represent an unusual strategy, attempting to use a little-used section of state law to block the distribution of certain books to minors. According to the Barnes & Noble brief, these were attempts to “establish jurisdiction” by “mixing together” unrelated laws.
But this case was particularly notable – and worrying – as the petitioners attempted to sell private booksellers under a criminal Statute. Rather than just targeting public schools, where many book battles take place, these petitions aimed to restrict activities in the private sphere. Regardless of what one thinks of the literary value of these two books, or what age they are appropriate, these circumstances alone are deeply disturbing.
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