Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oklahoma to Restrict Gay-Themed Books?

I can't think of a better example of the cultural divide that is currently splitting this country than this debate raging in Oklahoma. That said, I'm not sure there's any way to compromise with people who openly advocate censorship of books and the suppression of ideas. I do know that if this country is to survive, these people must be stopped.
March 17, 2006


The Oklahoma house voted late Wednesday to withhold state funding from local libraries that do not segregate reading material with sexually explicit or gay themes from reading areas for children and young adults. House members voted 60-33 for the bill after more than two hours of questions and debate in which opponents said the measure was a form of censorship and an unfunded mandate that would remove local control from library boards.

The measure, which is opposed by the Oklahoma Library Association, now goes to the senate, where opponents predict it will be killed. "It doesn't seem that you can legislate morality," said Rep. Debbie Blackburn, a Democrat from Oklahoma City.

Blackburn and other opponents said an advisory board charged with developing an annual list of gay or sexually explicit material that must be placed in separate areas is the first step in an attempt to cleanse libraries of books some people consider offensive.

"I refuse to live under the Taliban," Blackburn said, referring to the nationalist Islamic fundamentalist group that effectively ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. "I refuse to live in Iran. This is America."

Democratic representative Ray McCarter said it is a parent's responsibility to decide what their children read. McCarter also said small rural libraries will have a hard time complying with the mandates because their facilities are small and there is no room for separate reading areas.

"The only place we can put the material is at the other end of the table," McCarter said. Areas without libraries will have to use an adults-only trailer on the back of the Bookmobile, he said.

The measure's author, Republican representative Sally Kern, said children deserve a period of "protected innocence" in which they are shielded from sexually explicit material she said is turning young people into "sex machines."

"You can't sell toothpaste without sex," Kern said. "The American Library Association is out to sexualize our children."
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Blogger Jordan Sonnenblick said...

There is hope! Oklahoma state legislator Jeannie McDaniel replied to the letter I sent out on behalf of AS IF! Her response:

"Thank you for your note. I debated and voted against this bill. You give us courage to speak out against bad legislation."

So there are bright spots out there.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit that I applaud this new bill. This is not censorship. The libraries are not being forced to remove those books from the library.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Brent Hartinger said...

Anonymous couldn't be more wrong. This is censorship. These books are being put in a "special" section, and no one under 18 can read them without parental permission, even the teenagers for whom these books are written. (The next step, of course, is to not buy these books at all, which what the authors and supporters of this bill wants.)

For a library to actively suppress a whole idea and area of inquiry? I find that EXTREMELY frightening. It is the exact opposite of everything a library stands for.

Frankly, I'm appalled that anyone is even debating this. There are debates where there is a little bit of truth on both sides. This is not one of those debates.

Even if this wasn't a case of intellectual suppression, for the record, gay people pay taxes, and they have children too. Why shouldn't they be represented in library collections too? Should there be no black characters in children's books, because black people offend some people? Should all books with Christian characters be put in a "special" section, off-limits to anyone younger than 18, because some people are not Christian?

This is both censorship, and blatant bigotry. It is absolutely not acceptable.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As adults (49 and 53) who have never grown up, my partner and I read childrens' books to each other before going to sleep. The book that inititated this action involves a young king who has reached the age at which he must marry. After reviewing all the princesses from near and far he chooses a prince. It's a well-written story with a surprise ending.

Apparently two Oklahoma Cityites complained to their legislator and sparked the debate. I don't care what anyone's views are, it is frightening to think the opinion of two people could prompt 60 out of 63 legislators to vote to segregate all literature based on another legislator's irrational response to her constituent's irrationality

5:48 AM  
Blogger said...

You guys being authors, I have great respect for you. Let me ask you some questions. First, I am specifically not addressing the issue of homosexuality. To me, that is up to the people themselves, and books containing homosexual characters or themes should not be separated solely because of such characters or themes. So let's set that aside for now.

My problem is with sexually inappropriate books for children. Whether they involve homosexual or heterosexual or animal-human sexual activity to me is irrelevant -- the problem to me is the sexual content being inappropriate for children.

Look for example at "Looking For Alaska" by John Green. That book gets awarded the ALA's top honor for "young adult" books, the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award. The "academy awards" as YALSA head Pam Spencer Holley puts it. I read the entire book. It is very well written and entertaining. But on the issue of appropriateness for children, the book contains what I consider to be hard core sexuality. A boy pulls out his penis, she puts it in her mouth, and on and on.

Now "young adults" being defined by the ALA to be as young as 12, i.e., not even teenagers, let alone not even adults, are finding that the best book of 2006 for 12 year olds as recommended by the ALA is a book containing hard core sexual activity. The fact that the ALA awarded the book as its top YA book of 2006 means the book will be read widely thanks to local librarians and school librarians following the ALA's lead.

I'll set aside for now why librarians get to decide what's the best book for children instead of authors like yourselves who actually write the books.

Now let's all assume for the sake of argument that a book about detailed oral sex experiences is inappropriate for 12 year olds.

The question becomes could such a book be taken out of the children's section and placed into the adult section. That's the nut.

The ALA says no, it's not a librarian's decision. As Judith Krug said, it's real life issues so kids should read about real life issues to become an educated electorate.

I'm not sure how you authors would approach this since I narrowed down the hypothetical to winnow out extraneous issues.

But, in your responses, please discuss what you think the answer should be. Then, read US v. ALA and also Board of Education v. Pico, two US Supreme Court cases I believe to be relevant, and describe if reading those cases makes you change your answer in any significant way and why.

I thank you for your interest in this matter and I look forward to your responses.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, i understand them wanted to remove sexually explicit content from children's sections. some children might be mature enough to read things like that, and some parents might think it's okay. But, for the parents that don't, i can see that they don't want their children browsing books and picking up something explicit. BUT, removing all those books fomr the "young adult" section is a bit much. Maybe young adults are described by libraries as as young as 12, but since very few people would put a 12 year old child anywhere near the maturity of an adult, maybe instead of removing all these books, they should put up signs saying that young adult books are for 16 and up, or something similar.
Either way, the issue of THIS thread, I think, is that gay-themed books got lumped i with the sexually explicit books. i personally think this was really a way to move out the gay books. By putting the two together, even if legislation didn't want to vote out gay books, if they turned the proposal down, people would attack them for "wanting sexually explicit material near children."

12:04 PM  
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8:21 PM  

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