Aug 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Virginia judge dismisses obscenity case seeking to stop sale of 2 books to kids

Books are sorted at The Book Bundler warehouse in Richmond, Virginia, on Feb. 18, 2022. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Virginia judge on Tuesday dismissed a case that sought to stop the sale of two books to children over alleged obscenity, according to the Virginia Pilot.

Driving the news: The books, "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maia Kobabe and "A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Maas are not obscene under state law, Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge Pamela Baskervill ruled, per the Virginia Pilot.

  • "Gender Queer: A Memoir" chronicles the author's journey from adolescence to adulthood, including the exploration of gender identity and sexuality.
  • "A Court of Mist and Fury" is a part of a fantasy series that documents the protagonist's trials through a web of "politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms."

The big picture: Book bans have risen substantially over the last year, as conservative groups have successfully challenged and purged books from public school libraries, generally about LGBTQ issues and people of color, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

  • As the nation's public schools become more diverse, conflicts over what books students can access are posing new questions about free speech, Contreras writes.

What they're saying: Former congressional candidate Tommy Altman and his attorney, Republican State Delegate Tim Anderson initiated the complaint earlier this year and argued that there should be a different standard for obscenity for materials in the hands of minors.

  • "Ultimately, my client believes some materials that may not be obscene to adults in some cases should be obscene to children in certain circumstances," Anderson said in an email to Axios.
  • Anderson added that although the court declined that request Tuesday, as a state delegate, he intends to start a conversation on book ratings in Virginia's General Assembly next year.

Of note: Barnes & Noble opposed the petition to restrict sales of the two books in a brief filed with the court, per the Virginia Pilot.

  • Barnes & Noble did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

By the numbers: An April report from the American Library Association found over 700 "challenges" to library, school and university materials in 2021, the most since at least 2000, when the organization started tracking them.

  • "Gender Queer" was the top most challenged book, according to the report.
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