NEW YORK, January 30, 2023 – The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), an alliance of 59 national literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups, is alarmed by the introduction of two bills in the North Dakota legislature that would make it a crime for booksellers to display a wide range of books and ban libraries from offering LGBTQ content–all speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
North Dakota currently prohibits the display of books and magazines that have nudity on their covers in any place where a minor might see them. But Senate Bill 2123 expands this ban to any book containing a written description of nudity or a nude image that “exploits sex.” If passed, booksellers could be sent to jail for 30 days and face a $1,500 fine for violating the law.
S.B. 2123 law would impose on booksellers the impossible task of searching thousands of books in their inventories to determine which ones contain written descriptions or a single image of nudity: art books, romance novels, sexual health material, historical fiction and action and spy thrillers, even memoirs. If they carried even one book with a description of nudity or nude image, they would have to segregate the prohibited material in a place that adults can only access. The only options would be to stop carrying the books altogether or prohibit minors from entering their bookstores.
S.B. 2123 also removes from current law an exemption designed to ensure that schools, colleges, universities, museums, public libraries, and art galleries are not prosecuted, creating a chilling effect on free speech. It could cause school officials to purge many titles that have significant educational value for young people. Art galleries, museums, colleges, and universities might remove artistic works with nudity or bar minors from entering their buildings.
House Bill 1205 is another blatant violation of the First Amendment. It prohibits libraries from carrying “explicit” visual depictions of “sexual preferences,” “sex-based classifications,” “sexual identity,” and “gender identity.” Since these terms are not defined in the bill, they could apply to a wide range of LGBTQ content, including the bestselling children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, the true story of two male penguins who parented a baby penguin in the Central Park Zoo.
NCAC urges the citizens of North Dakota to defend their First Amendment rights by demanding that their elected representatives reject these repressive and unconstitutional bills.