CV NEWS FEED // The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled a public library must protect the privacy of four people who sought to keep a sexually explicit graphic novel out of the hands of children. A journalist had tried to obtain their identities under a public records law.
“We perceive no persuasive argument that the library’s objective assessment of the requests or the public good would be enhanced by revealing the identity of the requesters,” the Court wrote in its October 5 ruling on the case of Brookhart v. Reaman.
The book the our individuals challenged was “Gender Queer” – a graphic novel promoted to minors – which features graphic depictions of sexual acts and advocates “non-binary” gender ideology. The book includes an illustrated scene in which a minor fantasizes about being molested by an adult.
At issue in Brookhart was whether challenging the presence and availability of the book by submitting an official “Reconsideration of Materials” form legally counted as using a service of the Gunnison County Public Library.
Colorado law forbids disclosure of “any record or other information that identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific materials or service or as otherwise having used the library.”
The Court of Appeals has now confirmed that formally challenging a book is indeed using a public library service, and that the identities of those who file such challenges are protected.
The four requesters in this case were not parties to the lawsuit, which pitted a library official against a journalist over the issue of whether the requesters’ names were to be disclosed.
The court case began after Mark Reaman, editor of Colorado’s Crested Butte News, used Colorado’s Open Records Act to demand full, unredacted copies of reconsideration requests received by the library in early 2022.
The library district disputed Reaman’s demand for the complete reconsideration forms. Andrew Brookhart, the district’s custodian of records, was unsure whether the identifying information on the forms was legally protected or had to be released.
Brookhart personally agreed with Reaman’s reading of the law, but he had doubts on the matter and submitted it to a district court for judgment.
In an initial May 2022 decision, the lower court ruled that the four people challenging “Gender Queer” were library service users, entitled to privacy through redactions that would make the request forms anonymous before they were released. Reaman then contested that judgment in the Court of Appeals.
Ironically, the editor’s appeal was supported with an amicus brief by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition – which bills itself as “the voice for open government in Colorado” but in this case asserted a right to know the identities of private citizens who objected to the public library’s decision to carry the controversial book.
In its October 5 ruling, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed that Brookhart was required to release redacted, anonymous versions of the reconsideration forms, as these are considered public records under Colorado law.
However, it was also confirmed that Colorado’s public library officials may not release identifying details from these forms and would be subject to civil citations and fines if they did.
For now, challenges to “Gender Queer” have not caused it to be removed or restricted in the Gunnison County Library District. An online search shows it is available in the Young Adult section of the district’s two libraries.
“Gender Queer” is among the titles spotlighted by CatholicVote’s Hide The Pride campaign, which urged adults to check out and conceal inappropriate library books marketed to young people.