The five biggest book publishers in the US are suing Iowa over its book ban law

Several publishing houses joined bestselling authors and Penguin Random House this week in a federal lawsuit challenging an Iowa state law that bans certain books in schools and limits teachings on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers and Simon & Schuster, all members of the “Big Five” publishers in the US, announced they will join a lawsuit originally filed in November. Sourcebooks, which is majority-owned by Penguin Random House, also joined the suit.

“We as publishers are uniting in our unwavering commitment to stand with educators, librarians, students, authors, and readers against the unconstitutional censorship measures being imposed by the state of Iowa,” the publishers said in a joint statement.

“The alarming rise of book bans across the country demands our collective action. Now, more than ever, we must stand firmly with our authors and readers to defend the fundamental right to read and the freedom of expression.”

The law, SF 496, was signed last year by Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. It requires K-12 school libraries to only carry books deemed “age-appropriate,” and for libraries to exclude any book with “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act,” CNN previously reported.

In the lawsuit, the publishers along several bestselling authors, Iowa teachers, a student and the Iowa State Education Association, argue that SF 496 deprives students of literature that “portrays and describes critical aspects of the human experience” and “discriminates against LGBTQ+ viewpoints and authors.”

Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Iowa, and the law firm Jenner & Block LLP also filed lawsuit arguing the Iowa law seeks to “silence LGBTQ+ students, erase any recognition of LGBTQ+ people from public schools, and bans books with sexual or LGBTQ+ content,” according to a news release.

Late last year, a federal judge temporarily blocked key parts of SF 496 from being enforced, calling the law “staggeringly broad.”

In response to the judge’s ruling, Gov. Reynolds said she would continue doing her “part to protect” children because “instruction on general identity and sexual orientation has no place in kindergarten” and elementary school classrooms.

“And there should be no question that books containing sexually explicit content — as clearly defined in Iowa law — do not belong in a school library for children. The fact that we’re even arguing these issues is ridiculous,” Reynolds said in a statement.

“The real debate should be about why society is so intent on over-sexualizing our young children. It’s wrong, and I will continue to do my part to protect their innocence.”

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at