CBLDF Takes Legal Action to Protect the Freedom to Read in 2016

December 29, 2016
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cbldf_logoAmong the many tools in our kit is legal action. For individuals, much of our work is behind the scenes and intended to prevent cases from even reaching courts. To defend the First Amendment rights of the wider comics community, we frequently join legal opposition to legislation that would curb free expression, and in previous years, our legal briefs have even been cited in Supreme Court decisions.

Let’s take a look at a couple of key legal actions CBLDF took in 2016!

VICTORY in Louisiana: Online Age-Verification Law Struck Down

CBLDF is among a group of plaintiffs who this year secured a permanent injunction against an unconstitutional Louisiana law that would have required websites to age-verify every Internet user before providing access to non-obscene material that could be deemed harmful to any minor.

On Friday, October 7, Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson of federal district court signed an order permanently preventing Louisiana from enforcing H.B. 153. Judge Jackson had previously granted a preliminary injunction in the case, Garden District Book Shop v. Stewart. The state then determined that it would not defend the constitutionality of the law and agreed to the entry of a permanent injunction.

CBLDF Joins Protest of Revived Virginia Proposal to Flag ‘Sexually Explicit’ School Books

Just a few months after Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have required public schools to notify parents of “sexually explicit content” in curricular materials, the proposal has returned in the form of a new draft regulation from the state Department of Education. Last month, CBLDF and our partners in the Kids’ Right to Read Project sent a letter calling attention to this end-run and urging members of the Virginia Board of Education to reject the proposal.

CBLDF Joins Amicus Brief in Support of “The Band Who Must Not Be Named”

When an activist Asian-American rock band decided to choose a name that both affirms their racial identity and reclaims a racist term as a way to challenge stereotypes — The Slants — they likely didn’t expect to end up in front of the Supreme Court. They anticipated some blowback, sure, but then the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied their trademark application.

The PTO determined that The Slants were in violation of portions of the Lanham Act, which denies registration to trademarks “which may disparage … persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” Band leader Simon Tam took the PTO to court, arguing that the band’s First Amendment rights were violated. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed, but the full court reversed the earlier ruling in a 9-3 decision that struck down the disparagement clause in the Lanham Act as unconstitutional. The PTO appealed to the Supreme Court.

CBLDF joined a basket of deplorable people and organizations on a Cato Institute-led amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Lee v. Tam, asking, “Should the government get to decide what’s a slur?”

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2017 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!