The law requiring book sellers to categorize and recall sexually explicit content in school libraries faced questioning from federal judges at a Wednesday hearing.
HB 900 mandates book vendors to rate books and materials based on the presence of sexually explicit or sexually relevant content. This is to “stop the radical sexualization of our children.,” according to bill author Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco. If enforced, the bill will require the removal of books in more than 1,200 school systems.
The law has been criticized for being too broad and vague, for not giving a precise definition of what “sexually relevant” is.
“Both sexually explicit, sexually relevant — they talk about material that describes, depicts or portrays sexual conduct. How explicit must a reference be in order to qualify as sexual conduct?” a judge asked.
“Your honor, that is something that is likely going to be developed,” said Kateland R. Jackson, a lawyer for Texas. “Again, this law has not had a chance to be developed or implemented yet.”
Book vendors have also expressed that the bill would expose them to financial, reputational, and constitutional damage, as they would be forced to weigh in on the community standards of the state.
Some book vendors are based in other states and would have to guess which books will be acceptable in the state and will “apply imprecise standards to promote the state’s preferred message,” according to Laura Lee Prather, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
A judge also questioned whether it would be the case that some book passes community standards in one community but fails in another.
It is not clear if the court will allow the regulations to stand.
Currently, the law is being challenged by bookshops in Houston and Austin, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild.