A federal judge temporarily blocked Arkansas from enforcing portions of a law that would restrict which books can be made available to children. U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks issued a preliminary injunction on Saturday against two sections of Act 372, signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in March, reports the Wall Street Journal. The law, which was set to take effect Aug. 1, would make it a criminal offense to distribute, provide or show content deemed “harmful to minors” to anyone under 18 years old. Librarians and booksellers found to have violated the law could face with penalties of up to a year in jail. The law has been challenged by a coalition of plaintiffs that includes the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock.
The group said in a lawsuit filed in early June that the sections are overly broad and vague, and violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The law would create a new process to challenge library materials and could potentially force libraries and booksellers to create adult-only spaces to avoid criminal prosecution, the coalition said. Some places might opt to not carry titles that could be challenged, plaintiffs said. Brooks said “balance of the equities and the public interest here decidedly favor the plaintiffs.” The defendants, which include 28 Arkansas prosecutors and a Crawford County judge, will suffer no harm if the preliminary injunction is granted pending a final disposition, he said. Sanders’s office said it supports laws that “protect kids from having access to obscene content.”