Finding that Texas’s “sexual rating” law “violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” federal district court judge Alan D. Albright yesterday issued a written order granting a preliminary injunction against implementation of the law. He also denied a motion from the defendants to dismiss the case. The judge had issued an oral preliminary injunction August 31. The law was scheduled to go into effect September 1.

Under the law, all companies selling to school libraries, librarians, and teachers in Texas would have to assign ratings to books concerning their sexual content.

The law also has a retroactive feature: by next April, all booksellers and other book vendors would have to submit to the Texas Education Agency a list of every book they’ve ever sold to a teacher, librarian, or school that qualifies for a sexual rating and is in active use. The stores also would be required to issue recalls for any sexually explicit books. If the Agency found that a bookstore has been incorrectly rating books, it could be banned from doing business with charter schools or school districts. The Agency could also override booksellers’ ratings…

In his order, Judge Albright wrote that “the issue before this Court is whether the State of Texas is allowed to delegate the categorization to third parties like these plaintiffs. This Court holds that it may not, at least in the manner employed here.”

“For whatever reason, Texas chose not to have anyone employed by the state at any level make the initial evaluation of the sexual content. It chose instead to impose this extraordinarily difficult and prohibitively expensive burden solely on third parties with totally insufficient guidance. And worse still, no matter how much time and expense the third parties invest in complying, the State (through the Texas Education Agency) retained the power to unilaterally alter any decision made by the third party.”…

The law’s “requirements for vendors are so numerous and onerous as to call into question whether the legislature believed any third party could possibly comply,” the judge added.