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Federal appeals court weighs challenge to Iowa ban on books with sexual content from schools

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys for LGBTQ+ youth, teachers and major publishers asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to affirm a lower court order that blocked key parts of an Iowa law banning books depicting sex acts from school libraries and classrooms.

The law, which the Republican-led Legislature and GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds approved in 2023, also forbids teachers from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with younger students. It resulted in the removal of hundreds of books from Iowa schools before U.S. District Judge Stephen Locher blocked its enforcement in December, calling it “incredibly broad.”

“Iowa students are entitled to express and receive diverse viewpoints at school. But the State — taking aim at already vulnerable LGBTQ+ students — seeks to silence them, erase from schools any recognition that LGBTQ+ people exist, and bully students, librarians, and teachers into quiet acquiescence,” attorneys for the students wrote in a brief ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In addition to schools removing books with LGBTQ+ themes from libraires, they also shut down extracurricular clubs dealing with those issues and removed pride flags from classrooms, the students’ attorneys wrote. Students had to censor themselves about their gender identities and sexual orientations, according to the attorneys.

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