Virginia judge rejects lawsuit to challenge sale of two ‘obscene’ books


A Virginia judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by two Republicans seeking to limit the way libraries and public school libraries can distribute two books to minors, shutting down — at least temporarily — an unusual business strategy in a campaign to protect students from conservative literature they say is not. . Not suitable for age.

The two books at the center of the lawsuit are Maya Cobabe’s “The Fairer Sex,” a memoir about identifying as non-binary, and Sarah J. Maas’ book “The Court of Mist and Fury,” A fantasy novel depicting a dark fairy tale. they both have Drawn objections to their sexual material. The lawsuit, filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court by Dale Tim Anderson (R Virginia Beach) and congressional candidate Tommy Altman, aims to prevent the Virginia Beach school system and Barnes & Noble’s private bookseller websites from selling books to children without first obtaining parental consent.

In her order dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Pamela Baskerville concluded that Part of Virginia’s law to deal with obscenity Unconstitutional. The little-known and little-used section of state law, around which the Republican litigation is built, says that any citizen of Virginia can sue in court for a book to be judged as obscenity, and if the judge agrees, anyone then distributing the book “should have known that The book is obscene” and may be held criminally liable. The code is decades old.

In her ruling, Baskerville said the law violates the First Amendment by enabling government censorship and by assuming that anyone who distributes an obscene book must consciously decide to break the law, when in fact those people may “not know that the book can be considered obscene.” presumption scientistBaskerville wrote, “or knowing that one’s actions are wrong. In a similar line of reasoning, Baskerville concluded that the law violated the due process clause of the Constitution “by delegating judgment without notifying the affected parties.”

Virginia Law § 18.2-384 Unconstitutional on its face,” Baskerville wrote in her final order in the case. Thus, the case itself is no longer valid and merits dismissal, she wrote.

Baskerville, who came out of retirement to rule because other Virginia Beach judges had disqualified themselves, also found that the plaintiffs failed to prove that either book was obscene under Virginia law. Baskerville wrote about both “gender” and “the Court of Mist and Fury.”

In May, Baskerville found there was “probable reason” to classify both books as obscene while the court presented the case’s arguments. In her order Tuesday to terminate the case, Baskerville wrote that the finding was “issued without the benefit of a briefing or argument by the aggrieved parties” and “was recorded in an incomplete record.”

“It’s a Thanos moment,” said Jeff Trixler, interim director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund who represented Cobabe in the case, of Baskerville’s disqualification of her earlier decision.

He added that he believed that justice had been served. [‘Gender Queer’] Not obscene, this is a work of serious, substantial, artistic, literary and political importance… This case should never have been brought, and a case like this should never have been brought up again.”

Anderson wrote in a statement Tuesday that his client, Altman, is “reviewing his appeal options” and may resort to “review by the higher courts to conclusively answer this question.” He also suggested that they might seek “additions to the Code by the General Assembly”. Kobabe and Maas did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

What happens next depends on Altman and Anderson’s decision to appeal. Given the involvement of First Amendment issues and due process, Trexler predicted that the case could eventually be taken to the Virginia Supreme Court—and later to the Supreme Court.

For now, Baskerville’s ruling, so long as it continues unchallenged, means that the specific section of Virginia’s obscenity law that it deemed unconstitutional is no longer valid in a certain segment of the state under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Beach City court, Trixler said. This means that both books can be freely sold by Barnes & Noble’s bookseller.

However, at least one of the two texts is no longer available in Virginia Beach City Public Schools. About the same time the suit She was making her way through the courts in Mayschool board of directors Established To remove all copies of “Gender Queer” from its libraries due to the sexual content of the book. On Tuesday before the judge’s final ruling, Anderson and Altman withdrew part of their lawsuit that targeted the school system, citing the fact that the boycott had already impeded students’ access to “gender.”

“At today’s hearing, the school board argued that the court had no jurisdiction over the school board” because Virginia’s obscenity law “exempts public schools from applying … actions against an allegedly obscene book,” Kamala Lanetti, an attorney for the Virginia Beach School Board, wrote in a statement. . .” But, Lanetti wrote, this issue became “disputed” after the plaintiff withdrew – and “the school board has not taken a position on the other arguments before the court.”

Barnes & Noble did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

“Gender,” written as a graphic novel, traces the author’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and her exit as asexual and non-binary. The book contains some graphic sexual scenes—for example, depictions of oral sex, masturbation, and sexual fantasies involving tongue between an apparent teenage male and a bearded older man—that have drawn harsh criticism from parents, including allegations that the book exhibits pedophilia.

“A Court of Mist and Fury” is the second in Mass’s bestselling Court of Thorns and Roses series, which Reimagine Famous epics and fairy tales, such as “Beauty and the Beast”, from new and different perspectives. Common Sense Media, a book review site, recommended the text for 17 and over, noting that it was “full of sex, and blood magic.”

lawsuit It comes amid an unprecedented nationwide curtailment of reading freedom for students in the United States. Book challenges and bans reached record levels in the past school year. In the past two years, six states have passed laws mandating parental participation in book review or making it easier for parents to remove or restrict texts at school, while five other states are considering similar legislation. Republican lawmakers in at least nine states are pushing laws that require school library databases to ban certain types of content.

InclusiveAnd the Most of the targeted books were written by people of color and LGBT people, According to PEN American and the American Library Association – The latter recently found that “Gender” was the most challenging book of 2021.

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