Last week, a coalition of Texas-based book sellers and several bookstore associations filed a lawsuit against Texas over HB 900, the book ban bill passed during the legislative session.
Under HB 900 by Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), private book vendors, not school librarians or elected officials, would assign ratings to these materials. Depending on the book’s rating, it would either be removed from school library shelves or would require parental permission to be accessed.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include two Texas bookstores, Austin’s BookPeople and West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, and four other associations (the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) allege that HB 900 violates their First and 14th Amendment rights.
According to the plaintiffs, HB 900 regulates speech with “vague and overbroad” terms, compels their speech by forcing them to assign ratings to books they might not agree with, and prohibits their speech by limiting what books they can sell.
The two bookstores listed as plaintiffs also explained that it is impossible for them to comply with the rigid rating system outlined by HB 900. As small booksellers, they are not equipped to individually rate each title that they sell. While the scale of larger booksellers may allow them to reasonably review materials, the law is unduly burdensome on small operations.
In a joint statement announcing the lawsuit, the associations specifically stated that they agree that content for students should be age appropriate, but they state that HB 900 does not achieve this goal.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are Martha Wong, chair of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, chair of the Texas State Board of Education Keven Ellis, and TEA commissioner Mike Morath.