A federal judge appointed by Joe Biden has blocked an Iowa law prohibiting sexually explicit books and gender ideology in elementary schools.
Judge Stephen Locher claimed the law, Senate File 496, was “unreasonable” and “puritanical.”
“It requires the wholesale removal of every book containing a description or visual depiction of a ‘sex act,’ regardless of context,” Locher said, according to a report from the New York Times.
“The underlying message is that there is no redeeming value to any such book even if it is a work of history, self-help guide, award-winning novel or other piece of serious literature,” the judge continued. “In effect, the Legislature has imposed a puritanical ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over school libraries.”
The law was challenged in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the book publisher Penguin Random House and the Iowa State Education Association. It claimed that banning pornographic books in schools is unconstitutional.
“First, under the pretext of protecting students from ‘pornography,’ Senate File 496 prohibits books in school libraries and classroom collections that contain a description or visual depiction of a ‘sex act,’” the lawsuit stated.
The complaint continued, “This restriction applies to all grades, kindergarten through twelfth grade, without consideration of the book as a whole, only excepting religious books. By so broadly regulating the display and availability of books that are constitutionally protected as to at least a significant number of students, this standard violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it is an impermissible content-based restriction, restricts access to constitutionally protected books, and is unconstitutionally vague.”
In a press release about the lawsuit, Penguin Random House argued the “First Amendment guarantees the right to read and to be read, and for ideas and viewpoints to be exchanged without unreasonable government interference. By limiting students’ access to books, Iowa violates this core principle of the Constitution.”
Judge Locher did not block part of the law that requires schools to inform parents if a child uses pronouns that do not correspond with their biological sex.
Republican Governor Kim Reynolds said in a press release that she was “disappointed” by the ruling.
“I’m extremely disappointed in today’s ruling,” the press release began. “Instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation has no place in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. And there should be no question that books containing sexually explicit content — as clearly defined in Iowa law — do not belong in a school library for children.”
Reynolds continued, “The fact that we’re even arguing these issues is ridiculous.”
“The real debate should be about why society is so intent on over-sexualizing our young children. It’s wrong, and I will continue to do my part to protect their innocence.”
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird has vowed to fight to “keep inappropriate books out of the hands of children in school.”
“I am deeply disappointed in the district court’s decision today. Sexually explicit books do not belong in our elementary-school libraries or classrooms. Not only is it common sense, it’s the law,” Bird said in a press release. “As Attorney General, I will keep on fighting to protect families, enforce the law, and keep inappropriate books out of the hands of children in school.”