Virginia judge dismisses lawsuit that attempted to deem books obscene for children

A Virginia judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to classify two books as obscene for children and to restrict booksellers and libraries from distributing them to minors.

FOX 5's Maureen Umeh says the lawsuit was brought back in April by a Virginia Beach tattoo shop owner and former Republican Congressional candidate named Tommy Altman.

Altman argued that depictions in "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maia Kobabe and "A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Maas. were inappropriate for children and wanted the books restricted.

Both books describe or illustrate sexual acts that prompted the lawsuit

Altman asked the court to issue an order under state law against distributing, selling or loaning the books to minors.

On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Pamela S. Baskervill struck the lawsuit down citing state law and the U.S. Constitution. Baskerville wrote that Virginia law doesn't give her the specific authority to determine whether the books are obscene for minors. The judge also wrote that restricting the books' distribution would authorize "prior restraint" of speech and violate the First Amendment.

Umeh said the judge also described concerns about prosecuting someone who didn't know they were selling or loaning books that were deemed to be obscene.

The judge's order comes at a time when book challenges and bans have across the country and Virginia has been on the frontlines.

It was an issue that served as a major flashpoint for Republican Glenn Youngkin's successful run for governor last year.

Altman says he's now considering his options following the judge's order.

He said one way forward could be a ratings system for books like there are for video games and movies.