• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Five Largest US Book Publishers are Suing Lowa over its Book Restriction Statute

US publishers unite against Iowa's book restriction law, defending free speech and LGBTQ+ literature rights in federal lawsuit.
on Apr 19, 2024
The Five Largest US Book Publishers are Suing Lowa over its Book Restriction Statute | Frontlist

This week, many publishing houses joined popular authors and Penguin Random House in a federal lawsuit contesting an Iowa state law that prohibits certain books from being used in classrooms and limits education about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster, all of the "Big Five" publishers in the United States, have announced that they will join a lawsuit first filed in November.  Sourcebooks, which is mainly owned by Penguin Random House, has also entered the lawsuit.

"We as publishers are uniting in our unwavering commitment to stand with educators, librarians, students, authors, and readers against the unconstitutional censorship measures being imposed by the state of Iowa," the publishers said in a joint press release.

"The disturbing surge of book bans around the country requires our concerted action. Now, more than ever, we must stand firm alongside our authors and readers to protect the fundamental right to read and free speech."

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law, SF 496, last year. It compels K-12 school libraries to only carry books that are judged "age-appropriate," and to exclude any book that contains "descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act," according to CNN.

In the lawsuit, the publishers along with several bestselling authors, Iowa teachers, a student, and the Iowa State Education Association argue that SF 496 deprives students of literature that "portrays and describes critical aspects of the human experience" and "discriminates against LGBTQ+ viewpoints and authors."

According to a news release, Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Iowa, and the law firm Jenner & Block LLP have also filed a complaint, alleging that the Iowa law tries to "silence LGBTQ+ students, erase any recognition of LGBTQ+ people from public schools, and ban books with sexual or LGBTQ+ content."

Late last year, a federal judge temporarily halted major provisions of SF 496 from being executed, describing the law as "staggeringly broad."

In response to the judge's decision, Gov. Reynolds stated that she will continue to do her "part to protect" children since "instruction on general identity and sexual orientation has no place in kindergarten" and elementary school classes.

"And there should be no doubt that books with sexually explicit content, as defined under Iowa law, do not belong in a school library for children. "The fact that we're even debating these issues is absurd," Reynolds said in a statement.

"The real debate should be about why society is so determined to oversexualize our young children. It's wrong, and I'll continue to work to safeguard their innocence."

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