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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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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