A Louisiana library has decided to keep several LGBTQ+ children’s books on the shelves despite heated opposition from right-wing residents.
The St. Tammany Library Control Board voted this week against banning five books. Four of the books in question were children’s books about gender identity, including I am Jazz, a children’s picture book by and about trans youth activist Jazz Jennings, and My Rainbow, a children’s book about a mother’s love for her trans, autistic daughter that was written by the mother-daughter duo.
The library received multiple complaints about the titles, claiming they violated a 2017 state law banning the “distribution of material harmful to minors.” But the board disagreed that the material in the challenged books is harmful.
In December, in fact, the board already voted to keep many of the same books on the shelves, but the complaints have kept coming.
The Lousiana Illuminator reported that Connie Phillips, who represents the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, wrote that a “minuscule number of transgender people” live in St. Tammany Parish and that these stories are “offensive to the average adult applying contemporary community standards with respect to what is suitable for minors.”
Phillips said the books either needed to be removed or relegated to an “upon request” section.
But on the day of the Board’s vote, the public commenters were reportedly overwhelmingly against banning the books. Andrea Romero, president of the Gulf South LGBT Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the importance of I am Jazz.
“I have two children, two girls ages 9 and 12… and bombshell: I am transgender. I’m here to talk about this book, I am Jazz. This is my copy right here. This is the book I used to teach my daughters about me and my role in this world and my coming out. I strongly suggest keeping this book accessible to all the children and adults who decide they simply need to read it.”
Another speaker, MJ Castillo, referenced the recent school shooting in Nashville.
“It’s absolutely shocking to me that we sit here talking about books and how we need to protect children against books when once again today, for the 89th time this year, three children died, nine years old, at the hands of an angry individual with two assault rifles and a handgun, who walked into an elementary school and killed them.”
The meeting was accompanied by heckling and fighting, which resulted in David Cougle, an attorney for the Accountability Project that has been issuing so many of the challenges, being removed from the meeting after inviting Castillo to fight in the parking lot.
Despite losing the battle, Cougle told the Illuminator the Accountability Project is not giving up its quest to ban books.
“Long-term like, my interest is in protecting kids,” he said.