Gender Queer, cartoonist Maia Kobabe‘s graphic novel memoir about eir’s journey of self-discovery with regards to eir gender identity, has over the last year become a prominent target for conservative activists, with more library challenges against it than any other book in the United States. Today saw a small victory for the embattled graphic novel, though, as a Virginia judge threw out a lawsuit against Gender Queer on the grounds that the law the suit was based on is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Virginia state delegate Tim Anderson, relied on a little-cited section of Virginia law in which petitioners could request a judicial review of a book in order to determine if the work is obscene. Should the review determine that it is, under the law the sale of that book would become illegal. Both Gender Queer and another book, Sarah J. Maas‘s 2016 fantasy novel A Court of Mist and Fury, were being challenged by Anderson’s lawsuit.
The decision today to toss the case was issued by Virginia circuit judge Pamela S. Baskervill, who granted a motion by Kobabe’s attorneys along with those filed by other Virginia booksellers and national retailer Barnes & Noble, and ultimately found the law in question unconstitutional under both the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Virginia Constitution.
For more context and in-depth analysis, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund interim director (and occasional Beat contributor) Jeff Trexler posted a long thread on the CBLDF’s Twitter feed breaking down Baskervill’s decision.
Good news from the Virginia Beach courthouse re Gender Queer obscenity case – the judge found the VA statute unconstitutional on 1st Amendment/due process grounds! /jt pic.twitter.com/uY1hkxgfRc
— Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (@CBLDF) August 30, 2022
While the court’s decision to dismiss the case against Gender Queer today has no impact on the regular library challenges the book has been receiving from Conservative groups, it’s still a nice victory for Kobabe, and one that will potentially lead those aforementioned groups to think twice before trying something similar with other books they might deem inappropriate for the children. Will it, though? Probably not. But a person can dream.