A federal judge in Texas has ordered officials to return books containing LGBTQ content to shelves after they were removed from public libraries. Photo courtesy of Google Maps
April 1 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Texas has ordered officials to return books containing LGBTQ content to shelves after they were removed from public libraries.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued the order Thursday as part of a 2022 lawsuit filed by seven residents against officials in Llano County in central Texas.
The residents said in the lawsuit that the decision by county officials to remove the books from library shelves violated the First Amendment and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The books were removed from the shelves of three libraries in the Llano County library system.
Ahead of the judge's decision, county officials had filed a motion to dismiss the case while the plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction to reinstate the books pending litigation.
Pitman partially granted both motions Thursday, ordering the return of the books while also siding with Llano County to dismiss claims in the lawsuit related to the county's cancellation of the online book database OverDrive.
County officials were also ordered to update the library system's searchable catalog to reflect that the books were available for checkout and have been ordered not to remove any more books from libraries.
"Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination," Pitman wrote in the order.
Books that had been removed from shelves included: "They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group" by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and "Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen" by Jazz Jennings.
Pertaining to the OverDrive claims, Llano County had argued that the cancellation of the online book database was moot because books can be accessed on Bibliotheca, the county's new online book database.
The residents argued in the lawsuit that just some, but not all, of the removed books are accessible on Bibliotheca without identifying which books are not available.
"Without allegations regarding specific books, and given that some of the books at issue are available through Bibliotheca, the Court cannot find, based on the pleadings, that Bibliotheca does not sufficiently replace OverDrive database," Pitman wrote in his order.
The county was given 24 hours to comply with the order. It was not immediately clear whether officials have done so.