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Parents sue library system to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ book censorship

Parents sue library system to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ book censorship
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A group of Arkansas parents are suing their local county judge, quorum court, library board, and interim library director for censoring LGBTQ+ books.

Crawford County residents and users of the county’s library system Rebecka Virden, Nina Prater, Samantha Rowlett, and their minor children object to “the stigmatization of certain books by placing a prominent color label on them and moving the books to a separate ‘social section’” in the county’s five library branches, according to the complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. The suit alleges “unlawful censorship” of LGBTQ+ materials in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“Crawford County’s censorship of the ‘Social Section’ books arises from impermissible religious considerations, i.e., its extreme and malevolent view of the Bible, resulting in the County punishing the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit comes after months of debate between members of the community who opposed children’s access to LGBTQ+ content in libraries and those who support it, the Arkansas Advocate reports. Library board chairwoman Tammi Hamby and her husband Jeff Hamby have been among those opposing access to the books.

“Ask yourself as leaders of our community if teaching our child that they may be queer or homosexual or a drag queen is the best use of our limited tax resources?” Jeff Hamby asked at a library board meeting last December.

In a letter to local pastors, the Hambys claimed that the only reason to include LGBTQ+ books in the libraries’ children’s sections “is grooming a generation of children to feel this is normal and an accepted way of life.”

Last December, Crawford County Library System’s then-director Deidre Grzymala reached a compromise with the county’s quorum court in response to complaints about LGBTQ+ children’s books in libraries. Per the agreement, the books were removed from the children’s sections and moved to a newly established “social section” in the adult sections of the libraries. The books were also given special color labels to identify them.

The Crawford County parents’ lawsuit claims that this action constituted “viewpoint discrimination.”

According to the complaint, the books moved to the “Social Section” include an illustrated children’s guide to Pride flags, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, and a picture book retelling of Cinderella featuring same-sex characters.

“Other proffered reasons for singling out these books and making them more difficult—and more stigmatizing—to read is that the books are ‘pornography,’ or ‘exposing children to explicit sexual ideas or imagery,’” the lawsuit states. “To be clear, none of these books could be fathomably be accused of ‘grooming,’ ‘pornography,’ or ‘exposing children to explicit sexual ideas or imagery.’”

The Crawford County parents want the court to order the library system to restore the books to the children’s sections per administrative controls and processes that existed in June 2022.

Out Rep. David Cicilline leaves Congress

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