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Circuit Court Dismisses Petitions to Find A Court of Mist and Fury and Gender Queer Obscene

The Circuit Court in the Virginia Beach book banning case found that A Court of Mist and Fury and Gender Queer are not obscene and that the Virginia law that a political candidate used to try to ban the books from bookstores and libraries is unconstitutional. The Authors Guild is tremendously pleased by this outcome.

On August 30, the Virginia Beach Circuit Judge dismissed two petitions asking the Court to find that Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury were “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,” and vacated her own Order to Show Cause that there was probable cause to bring the action as having been “made on an incomplete record.” The Court found that the petitioner, a candidate for political office, had failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the books were obscene, and also failed to meet the standards imposed by the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions with respect to pleading a claim of obscenity as to adults, and as to material that is inappropriate for distribution to minors.

The Court further held that the section of the Virginia Code (18.2-384) upon which the petitioner relied was “unconstitutional on its face” and violated the First Amendment and the Constitution of Virginia by: (i) authorizing a prior restraint (of speech); (ii) violating due process by authorizing judgment without notice to the affected parties and (iii) presuming scienter (or knowledge of wrongdoing) on people (including authors and booksellers), even though they have no knowledge that a book may be considered obscene. This undercuts the ability of future petitioners to bring similar future actions.

This decision is a resounding victory for free speech and the First Amendment. It remains to be seen if the petitioner will appeal, and we will keep an eye on the situation and act accordingly.

“We knew that the first amendment, as well as the obscenity laws, were on our side from the beginning, but too often politics and grandstanding seem to win out over legal arguments. We view this as a victory not just for Maia Kobabe and Sarah Maas but for all authors who face censorship,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “We thank and congratulate the authors, their publishers, Barnes & Noble, and our fellow amici for their good work in attaining this admirable result.”

Read the Authors Guild’s amicus brief.

Read the judge’s orders:
Re: Gender Queer, A Memoir and Re: A Court of Mist and Fury