Conservative horrified to see two men kissing on DVD case at library testifies for book ban bill

Conservative horrified to see two men kissing on DVD case at library testifies for book ban bill
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A new bill in Idaho would ban students under 18 from accessing books that contain “sexual conduct,” the definition of which includes “homosexuality.” One person who testified in favor of the bill in committee said that she thought it would make libraries “a safer place for children” after she saw a DVD with two gay men on the case at her library.

The Republican-dominated Idaho Committee on State Affairs has approved H.B. 384 for a house vote with the recommendation that it pass.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jaron Crane (R), bans both school and public libraries from making any text containing “nudity, sexual conduct, or sad-masochistic abuse” available to minors. In addition to partially defining sexual conduct as all forms of homosexuality (in addition to sexual intercourse and physical contact with a person’s genitals), the bill has another provision allowing librarians to censor “any other material harmful to minors.” This vague language has many worried about how it will be interpreted.

The bill also allows a parent, legal guardian, or minor to submit a formal request for a library to move a text they deem harmful to an adult section of the library within 30 days. If the library does not comply, the person can sue for $250 plus actual damages and attorney fees.

Speaking before the Committee on State Affairs, Crane touted this portion of the bill as proof that it is not about banning, but rather “relocating” books.

“You will not find the word ‘ban’ or ‘burn’ or anything of that nature in this legislation; this is a relocation bill,” he said, according to the Idaho Capital Sun. “There is no book banning. There is no book burning. This creates a process that is fair for both parties. One side may want certain materials in the library and the other may not.”

Over 100 people reportedly packed into the meeting to discuss the bill.

“Representatives, the homophobia in this bill is blatant,” said associate librarian and college student Isabella Burgess. “The bill’s definition of sexual conduct is incorrect and does not align with widely accepted definitions in any popular dictionary. Homosexuality does not equate to obscenity. It is your choice to sexualize children’s books. It is absolutely essential that we have books that represent every member of our communities, that are accessible to every age range.”

Longtime Idaho Falls Public Library director Robert Wright emphasized that libraries also cannot afford to deal with the inevitable lawsuits that will come from this bill. Not only would the damages be far more than $250 per lawsuit, but Wright explained that the library would have to pay extra staff to block minors from entering an adult-only area. He added that some libraries simply do not have the space to create a separate section, either.

Librarians also pointed out that most libraries already have policies in place for residents to challenge material.

Karen Jackson, a proponent of the bill, claimed there are “likely hundreds” of books available in libraries that “seek to influence the minds of children with explicit sexual content.”

“Regardless of the intention of the authors,” Jackson continued, “the content of these authors pervert the minds of our children, normalize behavior which would hurt the children severely if acted upon and substantially increase a child’s vulnerability to sexual predators.”

One parent, Jennifer Holmes, told her version of a horror story in which her children once saw two men kissing on the cover of a DVD at their local library. “I believe Bill 384 will be a blessing to parents, especially those who have more than one child,” she said. “This bill will cause the library to be a safer place for children to explore without having their parent with them every second.”

H.B. 384 is a revived and slightly edited version H.B. 314, which passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Brad Little (R), citing concerns with the costs of compliance for libraries. The original bill allowed complainants to sue libraries for $2,500 rather than $250, which Little said was akin to creating a “library bounty system,” the costs of which would be forced onto taxpayers and could require some libraries to close to minors altogether.

Little also expressed concern with the bill’s vague language and said students are far more exposed to harmful content online than they are in libraries.

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