Ayanna Pressley introduces “Books Save Lives Act” to fight anti-LGBTQ+ book bans

Ayanna Pressley (R-MA)
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (R-MA) Photo: Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has introduced the “Books Save Lives Act” to fight the national wave of book bans targeting books on racial and LGBTQ+ issues in public schools and libraries.

The bill would require all federally funded public and school libraries to maintain a diverse collection of books and would classify discriminatory book bans as violations of federal civil rights laws. It would also require primary and secondary schools to hire a trained librarian and direct the Government Accountability Office to report on the effect of book bans on underrepresented communities, Pressley explained in a press release.

“Books are essential to the development of our minds, creating a safe space for people to learn about themselves and the world. People of all ages, especially our children, should feel at home in their public libraries by having access to books that reflect the diversity of lived experiences,” Pressley wrote.

“Rather than honor the brilliance and diversity of our authors, illustrators, and librarians, Republicans are focused on further marginalizing people who already face systemic discrimination in our society – including people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, religious minorities, and people with disabilities – through discriminatory book bans,” she continued. “Every reader deserves to see themselves reflected in our literature – and our bill would help make that a reality for all.”

The bill has 27 co-sponsors and is endorsed by the groups We Need Diverse Books, PFLAG National, Florida Freedom to Read Project, and Color Of Change. Pressley drafted the legislation after a roundtable meeting during Banned Books Week in early October with librarians, educators, and community members.

Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer, a graphic novel that has been repeatedly targeted by book banners, wrote, “I support the Books Save Lives Act because I want future young people to see themselves and their world reflected fully and accurately in their libraries…. As a student, the library was my second home. I discovered stories that opened up my world and my understanding of myself on the library shelves.”

Bans on LGBTQ+ books have been “escalating dramatically” over the past year, the free-speech organization PEN America has reported. In the first half of the 2022-2023 school year, PEN America recorded 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles. About 26% of the banned titles had LGBTQ+ characters or themes, and 30% discussed race, racism, or had characters of color, the organization said.

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 “age-inappropriate” or “pornographic” for school children.

In September, President Joe Biden appointed Matt Nosanchuk as a point person for combating book bans. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama appointed Nosanchuk as the Department of Justice’s liaison to the LGBTQ+ community. In 2020, he served as the Democratic National Committee’s political organizer for LGBTQ+ engagement, The Times of Israel reported.

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