Virginia delegate seeks restraining order against Barnes & Noble over books depicting graphic sexual content

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Posted at 11:50 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 16:51:22-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Tommy Altman, a Virginia Beach parent, filed a lawsuit against the authors and publishers of two books that depict graphic sexual content. He’s asking the court to require parental consent when it comes to Barnes & Noble selling the books and schools lending the books to minors.

News 3 reporter Leondra Head spoke with state delegate and attorney Tim Anderson, who is representing Altman in court.

"We believe that parents should have a say in whether their children have access to this hyper-sexual material. Tommy and I both have young children in the Virginia Beach public school system. We’re both dads. Our concerns are virtually identical. It’s just about parents' rights," Anderson said.

Court documents state that Altman filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the authors and publishers of the books "Gender Queer: A Memoir" and "A Court of Mist and Fury."

At the beginning of the month, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) district banned "Gender Queer" from its schools, citing vulgarity and illustrations that depict sexual acts.

"Here’s the problem with gay literature is there are a lot of kids who have questions about their sexuality. There are a lot of books that help children identify those concerns and questions, but you don’t have to learn about your sexuality by having illustration of two minors performing fellatio on each other. That’s what 'Gender Queer' has - it has two minors on their hands and knees performing fellatio, and it’s in vivid, graphic detail." Anderson said.

The court documents say "Gender Queer" depicts sexually explicit details of minors engaging in sexual acts. Many of the pictures in the book show graphic depictions of sex acts that we cannot show.

"We did ask for the court to restrain Barnes & Noble from selling the books to minors. We did ask the court to restrain Virginia Beach Public Schools from lending the books out to lend to children without their parents' consent," Anderson said.

We spoke to one local bookstore. AFK Books & Records in Virginia Beach say they require parents' consent for children to read the book.

"If the book is explicitly rated 'mature,' we will require parental permission and have a parent present," Emily Klein, a manager at AFK Books & Records, tells News 3.

They say they are aware that VBCPS banned the book.

"We brought it in shortly after its release; then it sold out. Once we heard it was getting banned, we brought it back in because we wanted it to be accessible to the people," Klein said.

The LGBT Life Center in Norfolk sent us this statement regarding banning "Gender Queer," saying in part:

“Growing up as a young person that identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community can be incredibly challenging and isolating. Queer kids need queer books and queer spaces - where they can live as their authentic and true selves. Representation matters.”
LGBT Life Center

As for Altman’s lawsuit, Anderson says they are waiting to hear a response from the defendants.

"The publishers and the authors of these books have not weighed in yet. There lawyers have not weighed in. This is just a review where the judge reviewed the materials, compared those materials to Virginia’s statutory obscenity laws and found that there is reason to believe these books are obscene, and that starts the case," Anderson said.

Related: Local bookstores sell out of Dr. Seuss titles after 6 books discontinued for 'hurtful' depictions