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Virginia Republicans Won't Get To Ban Dirty Sexporn Books From Barnes & Noble After All
Oh no, now people will keep sinning, darn.
A Virginia judge on Tuesday pinched another rightwing censorship attempt in the bud, dismissing a lawsuit brought by two Republicans who tried to use an obscure commonwealth law to make sale of two books illegal to minors without written parental consent, and to bar them from public schools as well, the Washington Post reports ( free gift linky here ). That's good news for Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain targeted in the suit. We should also note that the attempt to get a ruling against the Virginia Beach school system was ultimately moot, since the school district had already pulled all copies of both books from its libraries.
The suit was filed earlier this year by two Republicans, Del. Tim Anderson and Tommy Altman, who's running for Congress but might settle for Witchfinder General. The two sought to ban sales of two books, the inevitable Gender Queer , by Maia Kobabe, a graphic memoir about the author's experiences with being nonbinary and asexual, and A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas, which is about fairy folk who fuck and do dark political intrigues, we guess.
The lawsuit attempted to use an old Virginia law that, as the Post explains,
says that any Virginia citizen can file in court to have a book ruled obscene and, if a judge acquiesces, that anyone who thereafter distributes the book “is presumed to have knowledge that the book is obscene” and could be found criminally liable. The code is decades old.
Circuit Judge Pamela Baskervill found that the law just flat out violated the First Amendment by imposing government censorship, and by treating anyone distributing a supposedly obscene book as having conscious intent to break the law, even if a particular bookseller or librarian knew nothing about the book. Baskervill also found the law violated due process rights, to boot.
While she was at it, Baskervill found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that either book was actually obscene under Virginia's obscenity statutes, so their case was, as constitutional scholars might say, "completely boned" and "bogus as fuck."
The Post notes that Baskervill had actually come out of retirement to handle the case "because the other judges in Virginia Beach recused themselves," although the story doesn't say why. Perhaps they all knew the plaintiffs, or maybe some had previously had babies stolen and replaced with Changelings by randy political-infighting fairy folk, which would definitely make one biased.
Weirdly, the Post explains that back in May, Baskervill initially found "probable cause" to consider both books "obscene," although it doesn't appear that actually led to sales of the book being restricted as the case went forward. In any case, the Post says Baskervill wrote in her order Tuesday that the earlier finding was “issued without the benefit of briefing or argument by affected parties” and “was made on an incomplete record.” Sounds like the Dirty Nonbinary Fairy Mafia came for her!
Anderson and Altman are considering whether to appeal the case, and Anderson suggested in a statement that maybe Virginia's General Assembly might have to fix its laws to protect children from books being sold.
As we mention up top, thanks to pressure from Mad Moms for Censorship, Gender Queer was already pulled from school libraries while the lawsuit was underway; the Virginian-Pilot also notes that Anderson
indicated in previously filed court documents that A Court of Mist and Fury was no longer available in Virginia Beach middle school libraries, where he had found it in the online catalog.
In any event, now Altman can continue insisting that he's out to protect Virginia children from smutty comics and smutty fantasy novels, and the parents of Virginia can get on with the important business of being traumatized by the very existence of Toni Morrison's Beloved.
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