A new state law keeping sexually explicit books out of Texas’ school libraries has been allowed to take effect once again after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a federal judge’s injunction.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Alan Albright issued a preliminary injunction blocking House Bill 900. 

HB 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) was passed during the 88th regular Legislative Session. Dubbed the READER Act, the law prohibits school libraries from housing materials that are sexually explicit, vulgar, or educationally unsuitable. It also sets up state standards for keeping inappropriate sexual content from all school libraries and classrooms.

The new state law requires vendors to rate and label books based on sexual content. Vendors that fail to comply cannot sell books to Texas schools.

In Albright’s ruling, he asserted that the Plaintiffs— Book People, INC., VBK, INC. d/b/a Blue Willow Bookshop, American Booksellers Association, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, INC., and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund—would suffer irreparable harm, claiming that the law violates the First Amendment. 

READER likely violates the First Amendment by containing an unconstitutional prior restraint, compelled speech, and unconstitutional vagueness. In addition, Plaintiffs argue (and Defendants do not dispute) that they will suffer reputational damage both if they are forced to comply or end up being unable to comply with READER.

Shortly after Albright handed down his ruling, it was quickly appealed by the state and moved to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

On Tuesday, the court stayed the injunction until a further order from the court is entered. The ruling effectively allows HB 900 to go back into effect for now. 

Patterson praised the ruling in a post, saying, “The READER Act is law in the Great State of Texas! After a Foolish ruling by a confused Austin Judge, HB 900 is back on the ‘books’ and moving forward.”

Christin Bentley, a parent and pro-family education advocate who serves on the Texas GOP’s State Republican Executive Committee, also took to the social media platform to commend the ruling. 

Brady Gray, president of Texas Family Project, told Texas Scorecard that while they’re excited about the recent ruling, the fight is not over.

“We’re thankful that obscene books are once again off-limits at public libraries and schools. While this ruling is welcome, we know the fight isn’t over and that the left is determined to keep explicit content available to children. We’ll keep fighting to protect the family and Texas kids,” said Gray.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.