The bill, which would ban books depicting sexuality. Or gender identity, proposes 30 days. In jail for librarians who refuse to remove banned titles.
Books containing “sexually explicit” content — including depictions of sex or gender identity. Would be banned from North Dakota public libraries under legislation. That state lawmakers began considering Tuesday.
The GOP-led state House Judiciary Committee heard. Arguments but did not take a vote on the measure. Which applies to visual depictions of “sexually explicit” content. And proposes 30-day prison terms for librarians who refuse to remove offensive books.
The proposal comes amid a national wave of Republican-backed legislation. To ban books containing LGBTQ content. Though typically those bills are limited to school libraries, not public ones.
Supporters of the bill said it would protect children’s innocence. And reduce their exposure to pornography.
But critics say the measure “steers in discrimination.” And would allow government censorship of what isn’t actually obscene.
House Majority Leader Mike LeFore of Dickinson introduced the bill. And said public libraries currently contain books with “disgusting and repulsive.” Content, including those that describe virginity as a silly label. And claims that gender is fluid.
Lefour argued that a child’s exposure to such content was linked to addiction. Poor self-esteem, undervalued intimacy. Rising divorce rates, unprotected sex among young people. And poorer well-being—although he provided no evidence to support such claims.
Stark County resident Autumn Richard also spoke in favor of the bill. Citing explicit content from the graphic novel “Let’s Talk About It. The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being Human” and the children’s comic book “Sex Is.” A Funny Word” — both available at public libraries.
Richard argued that the books may contain beneficial knowledge about contraception. Body image and abusive relationships, but many sections provide information. That he says is harmful to minors.
While supporters of North Dakota’s bill have repeatedly called the sexual content “obscene.” Opponents say the material in question isn’t actually legally considered obscene.
“Almost 50 years ago, the (US) Supreme Court set the high constitutional bar. That defines obscenity,” said Cody Shuler. An advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota. Who testified against the bill.
Obscenity is a narrow, well-defined category of unprotected speech. That excludes any work with serious literary, artistic. Political or scientific value, Schuler said. Few, if any, books are considered obscene. And the standards for limiting a library’s ability to distribute. A book are more stringent, Shuler added.
The definition of pornography is also subjective, the bill’s opponents said.
Christine Kuzawa, library director of the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library. Said the library has a book with two small hamsters on the cover. At the end of the book, the hamsters are married and they are both male.
“It’s a clever book,” Kuzawa said — but it would be considered pornography under the bill because. The book includes gender identity.
Facing criminal charges for putting books on the shelves “is something. I never thought I would have to consider in my career as a librarian,” Kuzawa added.
Besides to banning depictions of “sexual identity.” And “gender identity,” the measure specifies 10 other things. That library books can’t visibly depict, including “sexual intercourse.” “Sexual preference” and “sexual perversion” — though it doesn’t. . Define any term. The proposal does not apply to books that have “serious artistic significance.” Or “material used in science courses,” among other exceptions.
The bill would allow prosecutors to charge anyone who displays. These materials with Class B in places visited by children. The largest penalty is 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
The American Library Association reported in September. That efforts to ban books and a wave of bans were intensifying across the country. The 2022 number is close to the previous year’s total, which was the highest in decades. In Tennessee, Utah, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma. Bills to restrict content turned into school libraries became law last year.
Among the most targeted books are Maia Kobab’s graphic memoir about sexual identity. “Gender Queer.” And Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” a coming-of-age novel narrated. By a young gay man, according to an April report.
The US Department of Education investigated the removal of LGBTQ-themed books from. Texas school district libraries in December. The investigation follows a complaint by the ACLU and appears to be the first in a nationwide. Movement to ban school library books on sexuality and gender.