Texas county bans libraries from providing LGBTQ+ books to minors

Author: Daniel Villarreal

Commissioners in Montgomery County, Texas have voted to restrict anyone under 18 from accessing “explicit” or “objectionable” materials in the county’s seven public libraries, including books with LGBTQ+ content.

Additionally, the county’s libraries will add more politically conservative books in an attempt to add “balance” to county libraries.

The county’s commissioners court — which oversees the county’s social services, roads, courts, health, and police as well as their budgets — voted to adopt the new library policies after a contentious 90-minute July 11 meeting.

At the meeting, Lisa Palmer said that there’s “a woke agenda” to “sexualize our children at a young age.” She also compared non-conservative viewpoints to cigarettes, saying that children shouldn’t have access to either, Community Impact reported.

Another speaker at the meeting, Michele Nuckolls, complained about the lack of conservative-themed library books. “I was not able to find one book on the traditional conservative Christian view of gender,” Nuckolls said.

The commissioner’s court authorized Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo to expand the county’s book vendor list in order to purchase more conservative books. The court also directed Library Director Rhea Young to label any books with “sexually explicit” themes and restrict minors from accessing them.

However, Teresa Kennedy, owner of the nearby Village Books store, spoke in favor of minors accessing LGBTQ+-inclusive materials. Kennedy’s store has a section dedicated to offering books targeted by censors.

“Young people deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read. They deserve to see that there is hope at a time in their lives when they feel there is none,” she said. “Moreover, reading books that feature people in situations that young people have little direct experience within their own lives can foster empathy, tolerance, and connection, which in turn will make them better community members, better leaders, and better elected officials.”

Thus far, the county hasn’t revealed which titles will be age-restricted. However, similar policies have targeted queer content. About one-third of the 1,586 books banned from schools nationwide have LGBTQ+ themes and characters, according to a report from the free-speech organization PEN America. In 2022, about 41 percent of challenged books were by LGBTQ+ authors or contained LGBTQ+ themes, the American Library Association reported.

The bans have largely come from Republican politicians, conservative school boards, and so-called “parents’ rights” groups that have opposed such content as “woke indoctrination” that’s “inappropriate” for school children. In 98 percent of cases, the school districts didn’t follow First Amendment protections to ensure that government officials don’t ban or punish free speech, PEN America reported.

While some have argued that the books in Montgomery County have merely been “age-restricted” rather than outright “banned,” this is misleading. Age restriction is a form of censorship that essentially bans minors from accessing certain ideas.

Young readers aren’t given lists of the books they’re not allowed to access, and librarians who make LGBTQ+-inclusive books available to minors often face death threats, firing, or being labeled as a “pedophile” or “groomer,” children’s author Dashka Slater recently noted. As such, anti-censorship advocates will have to fight on behalf of young readers and authors to keep LGBTQ+-inclusive books accessible to learners of all ages.

Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Daniel Villarreal

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