BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Attorney General Jeff Landry is looking to put restrictions on certain books children have access to in public libraries. But some fear the suggestions are targeting the LGBTQ community.
The report by the Attorney General, dubbed “Protecting Innocence”, claims it is aiming to help children by keeping them from checking out “sexually explicit” content from public libraries.
“Nowhere in this report do we call for the censoring or banning of books. This is about what is appropriate for children,” said Landry.
The attorney general emphasized that claiming the report is censorship or a book ban would not be accurate. But some librarians are not in favor of limiting access to books. There are already policies in place to keep certain materials away from children’s sections.
The Louisiana Library Association has this statement pinned to its homepage:
“The Louisiana Library Association denounces censorship of any kind, particularly in libraries. The LLA Code of Ethics, adopted by the membership in 1981 and located in the LLA Manual, makes clear our stance: Librarians must resist all efforts by groups or individuals to censor library materials. The American Library Association also condemns censorship and clearly states through the Library Bill of Rights that restricting access to library materials is a form of censorship, stating that “Attempts to restrict access to library materials violates the basic tenets of the Library Bill of Rights”. Censorship always has been and always will be antithetical to librarianship. We stand with our colleagues and library users in fighting censorship in all its forms in Louisiana libraries.“
“Despite what they said, a large number of them are LGBTQ. It’s clear to anyone who starts to look at the details that that population is absolutely being targeted,” said a member of the Louisiana Library Association, who asked to remain anonymous.
The books deemed “sexually explicit” in the report are:
- “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
- “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe
- “Breathless” by Jennifer Niven
- “The Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
- “Blankets” by Craig Thompson
- “The ‘V’ Word” by Amber Keyser
- “Jack of Hearts” by L.C. Rosen
- “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
Several of the books document exploration of sexuality and gender. When asked if any of the books on the list are for children, the librarian said they are adult or young adult and would not be placed in the children’s section.
The bill filed with the state legislature on Tuesday lays out a definition of sexually explicit as present of “sexual conduct” such as masturbation, genital organs being shown, sexual acts, fondling, etc.
Two state legislators are filing bills that create a mandate for the changes to children’s access and suggest that the State Bond Commission withhold money from the libraries that do not follow the mandate. They want libraries to create a card system where parents can put restrictions on what their kids are allowed to check out. The legislation also creates a system for library boards to deem what is sexually explicit and have a review process to remove a book from a collection.
“We don’t want that 10-year-old walking into a library with that full access card and being able to check something out like a ‘Penthouse’ magazine,” said State Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek.
Cloud as well as State Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, will have dual bills filed in the House and Senate for the upcoming legislative session. They liken the restrictions to not being allowed to enter R-rated movies as children and that some streaming services such as Netflix have parental controls on what content is available to kids.
“Libraries absolutely 100% support parental rights. A parent has absolute sovereignty and absolute right to decide what their child reads and does not read. Where we do have a problem is that they do not have the right to tell another parent what their child has access to,” the librarian said.
LGBTQ advocates said they are in support of keeping non-age-appropriate books from children but fear this proposed law could lead to more materials being removed or limited in public libraries. The national debate has focused on LGBTQ books being inappropriate for children, despite there being books on the topic for a variety of age groups.
“I just find that really troubling and hope that we can have a more honest discussion in the legislature about what this is actually about,” said Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates.
The ACLU of Louisiana released this statement on the proposed legislation:
“Today, Attorney General Jeff Landry and legislators proposed new restrictions on circulation and access to public library collections. Although parents have an important responsibility to judge what material is appropriate for their own children, overbroad laws restricting free speech and the free exchange of ideas run contrary to the First Amendment.
“Today’s proposals would empower state and local officials to pick and choose what material is “sexually explicit” and, therefore, restricted or removed from circulation entirely. In any government censorship regime, there are winners and losers. And it is not lost on anyone that the vast majority of titles and authors criticized by the Attorney General today are by and about people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community.
“Politicians do not have the right to determine what we read or which ideas we can access. Material that some find offensive may be enlightening and enriching to others. In the United States, it is never the proper role of the government to choose what speech, art, or ideas are appropriate for the community. Restrictions on free speech and artistic expression are a dire threat to democracy and to future generations of Louisianans.”
The legislation filed will be introduced into the regular legislative session that is set to begin on April 10.