A federal judge in Arkansas temporarily stopped a new law in the state that would have authorized criminal prosecution of librarians and bookstores who provide juveniles with “harmful” materials, the Associated Press reports.
Judge Timothy L. Brooks enjoined the law, which would have constructed a new process for contesting library materials for relocation to locations not accessible by children. Former TrumpWhite House Press Secretary and current Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the measure earlier this year, with an August 1 effective date.
Libraries and booksellers would be chilled from carrying titles that could be challenged if they fear prosecution under the law, according to a coalition that includes the Central Arkansas Library System.
The judge also rejected the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case sought by state lawyers.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas praised the court’s ruling, stating that this law would have imperiled First Amendment rights without a preliminary injunction.
“The question we had to ask was — do Arkansans still legally have access to reading materials? Luckily, the judicial system has once again defended our highly valued liberties,” Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said.
It comes as lawmakers in conservative states force measures to make the ban or restriction of books easier. Last year, the American Library Association recorded the most attempts to ban or ban books in the U.S. in 20 years.
Laws have been enacted in Iowa, Indiana, and Texas restricting access to certain materials or making it easier to challenge them.
Florida’s extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” law, also remove access to publications.
There are 28 local prosecutors from Arkansas and Crawford County who are defendants in the case. The county’s decision to separate children’s books featuring LGBTQ+ themes is the subject of separate litigation.