NATIONAL NEWS

Court upholds block on Texas law requiring school book vendors to provide sexual content ratings

Jan 18, 2024, 12:25 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An order blocking the enforcement of a Texas law requiring vendors to evaluate and rate the sexual content of books they sell, or have sold, to schools has been upheld by a federal appeals court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said opponents of the law are likely to win their legal challenge of the law, which was aimed at keeping material deemed “sexually explicit” off school library shelves.

Backers of the law, signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott, have said it is designed to protect children from inappropriate sexual material. The law’s opponents said it could result in bans on literary classics such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Of Mice and Men” in schools.

Opponents also said the law places too heavy a burden on book sellers to rate thousands of titles already sold and new ones published every year.

The law requires vendors to give all library material a rating of “sexually explicit,” “sexually relevant” or “no rating.”

A book would be rated “sexually explicit” if the material is deemed offensive and not part of the required curriculum. Those books would be removed from school bookshelves.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit sided with book sellers who said the law violated their First Amendment rights against compelled speech. The panel rejected state arguments that the law merely requires factual information, like a nutritional label on food items.

“The statute requires vendors to undertake contextual analyses, weighing and balancing many factors to determine a rating for each book,” Judge Don Willet wrote for the panel. “Balancing a myriad of factors that depend on community standards is anything but the mere disclosure of factual information.”

Wednesday’s ruling upheld a lower court injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the challenge progresses. The panel consisted of Willet, nominated to the court by former President Donald Trump; Judge Jacques Wiener, nominated by former president George H.W. Bush; and Judge Dana Douglas, a nominee of President Joe Biden.

National News

Associated Press

USPS commits to rerouting Reno-area mail despite bipartisan pushback and mail ballot concerns

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The USPS announced on Tuesday it will follow through with its plan to reroute Reno-area mail processing to Sacramento, a move that drew bipartisan ire from Nevada lawmakers while raising questions about the rate at which mail ballots can be processed in a populous part of a crucial swing state. Postmaster […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

The Rev. Cecil Williams, who turned San Francisco’s Glide Church into a refuge for many, has died

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Rev. Cecil Williams, who with his late wife turned Glide Church in San Francisco into a world-renowned haven for people suffering from poverty and homelessness and living on the margins, has died. He was 94. Williams and his wife, Janice Marikitami, who passed away in 2021, appeared in Will Smith’s […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Alabama lawmakers advance bill to ensure Biden is on the state’s ballot

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate voted Tuesday for legislation meant to ensure President Joe Biden will appear on the state’s November ballot, mirroring accommodations made four years ago for then-President Donald Trump. The issue of Biden’s ballot access has arisen in Alabama and Ohio as Republican secretaries of state warn that certification deadlines […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Transgender Tennessee woman sues over state’s refusal to change the sex designation on her license

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A transgender Tennessee woman sued the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security on Tuesday after officials refused to change the sex on her driver’s license to match her gender identity. The lawsuit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville under the pseudonym Jane Doe by the American Civil […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Ex-police officer pleads guilty to punching man in custody about 13 times

BOSTON (AP) — A former Weymouth, Massachusetts, police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to assaulting a man in his custody nearly two years ago by punching him about a dozen times without justification. Justin Chappell, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, according to federal prosecutors. U.S. District Court […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Douglas DC-4 plane crashes into river outside Fairbanks, Alaska; not clear how many people on board

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A Douglas DC-4 airplane crashed into the Tanana River near Fairbanks on Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers said. It was not immediately known how many people were on board. The website www.airlines.net said standard passenger seating for a DC-4 was 44 during its heyday, but most have been converted to freighters. Troopers […]

7 hours ago

Court upholds block on Texas law requiring school book vendors to provide sexual content ratings