A Texas federal judge has ordered public libraries in Llano County to return an array of previously banned LGBTQ+ books. 

Back in April 2022, seven residents filed a lawsuit against county officials after they forced libraries to remove or restrict various books with queer and racial themes.

Some of the titles removed included Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings, and They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 

In the suit, the individuals accused the public officials – who claimed that the inclusive books were “inappropriate” – of violating their 1st and 14th amendment rights.

“Public libraries are not places of government indoctrination. They were not places where the people in power can dictate what their citizens are permitted to read about and learn,” they said. 

After a nearly year-long legal battle, US District Judge Robert Pitman ruled in favour of the seven individuals by instructing the Llano County libraries to reshelve the LGBTQ+ and critical race theory inclusive books.

“Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection an acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination,” Pitman said in his ruling on 1 April.

Pitman also shut down the defence of the county officials, in which they claimed that the books were removed as part of a normal “weeding” out process.

“Whether or not the books in fact qualified for ‘weeding’ under the library’s existing policies, there is now real question that the targeted review was directly prompted by complaints from patrons and county officials over the contents of these titles,” he said.

“And, notably, there is no evidence that any of the books were slated to be reviewed for weeding prior to the receipt of these complaints; to the contrary, many other books eligible for weeding based on the same factors appear to have remained on the shelves for many years.” 

Lastly, Pitman capped off his ruling by giving Llano County 24 hours to comply with the order. 

In response to the news, the lawyer for the seven individuals, Ellen Leonida, lauded Judge Pitman’s decision in a statement to CNN.

“This is a ringing victory for democracy. The government cannot tell citizens what they can or can’t read. Our nation was founded on the free exchange of ideas, and banning books you disagree with is a direct attack on our most basic liberties,” she said.

As of this writing, the county officials have yet to confirm if they complied with the order. 

Over the last few years, lawmakers from various states – including Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania – have used their power to target books with LGBTQ+ and critical race theory themes.

According to a report from PEN America, over 1,500 books were banned in the US between June 2021 and March 2022.