VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A judge in Virginia Beach Circuit Court ruled that bookstores in Virginia will not require minors to have parental permission to buy two sexually-explicit books at the center of a court case.
The books are entitled “Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury.” The two books had been available in Virginia Beach Public School libraries but have since been removed from the shelves.
A little under two hours into the court hearing the judge ruled the statute was unconstitutional and that there was absence of due process. She said she can’t guarantee all affected parties were here in the courtroom and that it was not the court’s place to rule on this matter.
Virginia legislator and attorney Tim Anderson were asking the court to require Barnes and Noble, as well as a handful of other stores, to require parental consent before selling the books to minors. A decision that hinged on whether the books in question are considered obscene.
“It’s really about restoring parental rights and controlling the things that their children can have access to,” Anderson told News 3. “Just like we do with R-rated movies, just like we do with violent video games, just like we do with cigarettes and alcohol.”
An attorney representing the author of “Gender Queer” was pleased with Tuesday’s ruling but feels it should have never been brought into the courtroom.
Before that decision, we checked with a local law professor who said the definition of “obscenity” is very narrow when it comes to the Constitution.
“If they can reasonably be read as being educational, social, commenting on our culture, our society, then they are probably not obscenity under the Supreme Court’s test even if they have very explicit materials in them,” Brad Jacob, Associate Dean for academic programs at Regent University said.
Matthew Callahan, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Virginia sent the following statement:
“The law being considered in these cases has a number of constitutional problems. The First Amendment requires any law that restricts speech to have a number of procedural safeguards to ensure that only illegal speech is being restricted. Those safeguards are missing from this law. Among other problems, an order that stopped these books from being circulated would affect people who are not a part of the court case (and were not even necessarily aware that the court case is happening), which is unconstitutional. We hope that the court will not only dismiss these cases but hold that the law as it is written is unconstitutional.”
Anderson also spoke with us about proposing book ratings, similar to what you might see with stickers on video games for mature players. He said he has 30 days to decide if he wants to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.