BATON ROUGE, La. ( BRPROUD) – One of the controversial bills aiming to limit children’s access to some books in public libraries was heard in the state legislature Thursday. What was set to be a heated debate was abruptly stopped.
SB7 aims to limit children’s access to books deemed “sexually explicit.” It would make libraries adopt policies to allow parents to restrict a child’s library card of what is allowed to be checked out. Policies would be adopted so patrons could challenge whether a book should be available to kids. Books added to the “sexually explicit” list would be reviewed by the local library boards.
The bill carried by state Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, is being pushed by Attorney General Jeff Landry as part of his “Protecting Innocence” movement.
“I have before you a piece of legislation that simply requires libraries to adopt and implement policy language to tailor the access of minors’ library cards,” Cloud said.
The books used as an example by the Attorney General’s Protecting Innocence report mostly have LGBTQ themes, which advocates for the community feel is targeting them for censorship. Advocates have come out against the bills out of concern it will negatively impact LGBTQ youth and other children seeking resources.
Cloud said her bill would be for parents to opt-in and is a way to protect children from materials a parent may not see fit for their child.
“This does not mean that other children can’t check out the book. It’s all based on the card level that the parent has found appropriate for their child,” Cloud said.
Just three people in favor of the bill were allowed to speak before state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, made a motion to cut off public testimony as a whole. Nobody in opposition had a chance to speak.
“Not only did they censor and restrict the librarians from speaking today, but they also made it very clear that they had no interest in hearing about the impacts on the LGBTQ community and what this bill does to our youth,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality.
Multiple librarians were hoping to speak after hearing one mother testify that books like the controversial graphic novel “Gender Queer” was found in the children’s section, which is not the case.
“The ten books from the AG, none of those are found in children’s sections in any library in our state at all whatsoever,” said Amanda Jones with the Louisiana Library Association. “So I am very sad that we were not allowed to get up and state that to the board as a whole.”
A number of amendments to the bill were struck down. Former state Sen. Bill Jones spoke on the amendments that would have essentially rewritten the bill. He now works on the Lincoln Parish Library Board and said he has only seen two challenges to books in the last 20 years. Jones also took concern with the aspect of the bill that would authorize the Bond Commission to withhold funding from a library if they did not adopt the rules laid out in the legislation.
“This is too dangerous. It’s too much power. And I don’t know of anywhere in the law. One agency is given the unilateral power to just cut off the funding to another,” Jones said.
The bill passed without any objection with some minor amendments. The next time the public could testify is if it passes the Senate and is brought to a House committee.