A Missouri State Representative is apparently feeling very threatened by a couple of drag queens and has thus decided to try to ban LGBTQ books in public libraries.
Republican Rep. Ben Baker introduced the bill in question in the state legislature earlier this week. The bill, if turned into law, would prevent libraries from allowing children to read LGBTQ-themed books. It even goes so far as to say that libraries that do not comply with the guidelines would be denied government funding and librarians could personally receive jail time if they give out banned books to minors.
The bill was inspired after Baker caught wind of “drag queen story hours,” where your friendly neighborhood drag queen comes to read to children and engages them in arts and crafts activities. Such story hours have been held in cities across the country.
Baker told the Kansas City Star,
“In some places — St. Louis, Kansas City and I think St. [Joseph] — they’ve had these drag queen story hours and that’s something that I take objection to and I think a lot of parents do. That’s where, in a public space, our kids could be exposed to something that’s age-inappropriate. That’s what I’m trying to tackle.”
To be clear, drag queens who participate in these events are reading children’s books, not the Kama Sutra.
A spokesperson for LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO defended the story hours and said,
“We think that visibility is really, really important, especially in a state where LGBTQ people can still be denied housing or fired because of who they are.”
Baker, on the other hand, felt that he, along with many other parents, would not be comfortable with their children exposed to such things. In response, he introduced the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act,” which would essentially ban all LGBTQ books that a five-person committee deemed to be “age-inappropriate sexual material.”
The Missouri Library Association has already come out against the bill and said in a statement,
“Public libraries already have procedures in place to assist patrons in protecting their own children while not infringing on the rights of other patrons or restricting materials.”
They added that it “will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read”.
Baker is claiming that the bill does not actually promote censorship but rather parental control over the books that children can read. He said,
“I just think that there’s a line between what is open and available access for our children. Even the bill specifies it wouldn’t be taken out of the library, it would just be put in a section that’s not for children. If the adult wanted to and said I’m OK with my child reading this or looking at this, then they could check that out and have that available for their child.”
However, it’s clear that the bill is intended to make access to these books as difficult as possible. Even worse, there will be no oversight on the committee, so whatever decisions they make would be considered final.