Virginia governor vetoes bill to label books 'sexually explicit' in schools

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Terry McAuliffe Vetos Virginia Religious Beliefs Bill

RICHMOND, Va., April 4 (Reuters) - Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed a bill that would force schools to identify materials as "sexually explicit," a measure prompted by objections to Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved."

The measure passed by the Republican-controlled legislature would have mandated that schools notify parents if teachers planned to use the labeled materials.

"This requirement lacks flexibility and would require the label of 'sexually explicit' to apply to an artistic work based on a single scene, without further context," McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.

He said the Virginia Board of Education was studying the issue, focusing on existing local policies and potential state policies.

A mother's objection to "Beloved" being taught in her son's classroom helped spur the legislation that would have given parents more control over classroom materials.

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Virginia governor vetoes bill to label books 'sexually explicit' in schools
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, hugs Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as she arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Norfolk, Va., Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledges the crowd with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as she arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Norfolk, Va., Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
National Governors Association Winter Meeting Vice Chair, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, right, accompanied by National Governors Association Winter Meeting Chair, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, speaks to the media during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Herbert and McAuliffe discussed the current presidential election cycle, the Supreme Court vacancy, gun control and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. McAuliffe announced an agreement on an expansion plan for Interstate 66 in northern Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, speaks as Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran listens during a media briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. Portions of Virginia are under a blizzard warning. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe wears a crossed flag pin representing the Virginian state and Cuban national flag, at a press conference after a visit to the port of the Mariel special economic development zone near Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. McAuliffe is on a two-day visit to Cuba with a delegation of businessmen exploring trade opportunities between the U.S. state of Virginia and Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe speaks to reporters after a visit to the Mariel special economic development zone near Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. McAuliffe is on a two-day visit to Cuba with a delegation of businessmen exploring trade opportunities between the U.S. state of Virginia and Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this photo taken Tuesday June 16, 2015, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during an interview with the Associated Press during the Paris Air Show, at Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. Governors across the country have been packing their bags for all-expenses-paid trade missions abroad, spending taxpayer dollars on costly trips that have an uneven track record of yielding any tangible benefits for their states. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announces that Stone Brewing Co., one of the nation's top 10 craft breweries, plans to build a facility in Richmond, during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy dance during their inaugural ball in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. McAuliffe was sworn in earlier in the day as the 72nd Governor of Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton acknowledge supporters during inaugural ceremonies at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. McAuliffe was sworn in Saturday as the 72nd governor of Virginia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Virginia Gov-elect, Terry McAuliffe, right, and his son, Peter, 11, center, look over the inaugural stand on the South Portico of the Capitol during a walk through at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. McAuliffe is due to be inaugurated as the 72nd Governor of Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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The measure had been opposed by a number of free speech groups, including the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

The novel by Morrison, a Nobel laureate, is the story of a runaway slave who kills her 2-year-old daughter to save her from a life in slavery.

"Beloved" won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. The American Library Association has it on a list of banned or challenged classics.

House Speaker William Howell, a Republican who was among the bill's sponsors, said he was unaware of McAuliffe's veto and had no reaction.

"I have to see what his veto message said," he said.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Andrew Hay)

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