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A proposed bill was heard this month in North Dakota's House Judiciary Committee that seeks to ban what it calls sexual content in public libraries and send librarians to jail if they refuse to remove the books in question.
Advocates have called the proposal censorship and "steeped in discrimination."
House Bill 1205 seeks to ban visual depictions of “sexually explicit” content from public libraries, which includes references to sexual orientation and gender identity. Librarians who don’t remove such books would face up to 30 days in prison as well as up to a $1,500 fine, according to the Associated Press.
The bill was introduced by the Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, citing the graphic novel Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human as his motivation.
It would allow people to ask libraries to remove texts and materials that violated the law. Libraries would have 30 days to comply.
He told the Bismarck Tribune, “I think the content of it is disgusting, that at the very least public libraries should put it in a restricted area where [children] need to get permission from their parents to take a book out like this, but they’re offering it to junior high school kids… and when we grew up, we didn’t need things like this.
Lefor continued, "This is not a way to raise our kids, and we have to do everything we can to make sure that this doesn’t get into the hands of children, especially without their parents’ knowledge.”
Although supposedly there would be exemptions for “works of art that, when taken as a whole, have serious artistic significance, or works of anthropological significance, or materials used in science courses, including materials used in biology, anatomy, physiology, or sexual education classes,” Lefor’s bill and a similar one introduced by state Sen. Todd Beard both promote “censorship and book bans,” Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library Director Christine Kujawa said.
“Citizens should have the freedom to choose the information they want to access," Kujawa said told the Tribune. "In the case of minors, parents are responsible for this, not the government. Not in North Dakota, in the United States, a state and country so rightfully proud of a representative democracy.”
The proposal is “a blatant attempt at censorship, pure and simple,” the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota said.
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