A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Crawford County residents over the alleged stigmatization of library books with LGBQT+ characters and themes.
The ruling by Judge P.K. Holmes III of U.S. District Court in Fort Smith was one of three decisions Tuesday that gave at least temporary victories to parties on both sides of the case.
Holmes also refused to grant a motion by residents that the Crawford County Library System be ordered “to restore and maintain its books and future acquisitions to the same administrative controls and processes as they existed in June 2022.”
The county’s libraries have been placing children’s books with LGBQT+ books themes in a so-called “social section” with a special color label on each book.
Holmes said the plaintiffs’ proposal “would essentially freeze in perpetuity the Library’s method for processing all types of books — not only children’s books relating to LGBTQ topics.”
“The Court does not see any reason, on the record before it, why it should curtail the Library’s discretion in processing books on such disparate topics … as caring for houseplants, playing chess, or mystery novels,” Holmes wrote.
He added: “Furthermore, the requested injunctions are so vague and general that they could potentially prevent the Library from altering these processes even for reasons that could be perfectly benign, prudent, and constitutionally inoffensive. For example, the Court has no idea whether the Library might wish someday to reduce the period of time for which especially popular books may be checked out, or to relocate some especially popular category of books to an area of a building that can more easily accommodate heavy foot traffic; but the Court sees no good reason to enter an injunction that could reasonably be construed as restricting the Library’s ability to make such harmless and even beneficent (and constitutionally irrelevant) decisions.”
Further, Holmes said plaintiffs can still “browse and check out the books in question while this litigation is pending.”
Holmes stressed that he wasn’t saying it would be “impossible” for the plaintiffs to show they need such relief as the case progresses. “[N]or is the Court saying it believes plaintiffs cannot prove their constitutional rights have been violated. The court is simply saying that if Plaintiffs ultimately prove a violation of their constitutional rights, then they will need to request injunctive relief that is much more narrowly tailored to remedying the harms they have suffered.”
You can read the judge’s full court order here.