The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Author’s Guild, and two Texas booksellers, Austin’s BookPeople and West Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, have sued in federal court to prevent the implementation of a new Texas law, which would require booksellers to rate materials sold to libraries.

The new law, due to go into effect on September 1, would require any vendor selling to a school library, including booksellers, to determine "current community standards of decency" and label books sold to school libraries as "sexually relevant" or "sexually explicit" based on depictions or descriptions of "sexual conduct."

Students would require special permission to check out books labeled "sexually relevant," and school libraries would be banned from acquiring titles labeled as "sexually explicit," a term so broadly defined it could apply to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, Jane Eyre, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and the Bible.  Those standards are different from those used to determine obscene content, as defined by federal law and Supreme Court rulings.

In a Kafka-esque twist, booksellers would also need to rate any books sold to school libraries before the act goes into effect that are still in active use.

Booksellers found to have violated the law will be subject to censure through a public listing; school libraries would be prohibited from buying from those booksellers in the future.

The lawsuit argues that the new law violates the First and Fourteenth amendments and that its implementation should be blocked.

"It is central to the First Amendment that the government can neither restrain nor compel speech, but this law will force booksellers to label constitutionally protected works of literature and nonfiction with highly subjective and stigmatizing ratings, effectively forcing private actors to convey and act upon the government’s views even when they disagree," the heads of plaintiff organizations CBLDF, ABA, AAP, and the Author’s Guild said in a joint statement accompanying the announcement.  "The suit filed today seeks to protect the basic constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and restore the right of Texas parents to determine what is age appropriate and important for their children to access in their schools, without government interference or control."