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Georgia Senate passes bill banning American Library Association from state libraries

Public library book shelves reading room out lesbian librarian Emily Drabinski President of the American Library Association
Shutterstock; via emilydrabinski.com

The bill’s sponsors blamed the group’s new “Marxist lesbian” president for the legislation.

Republican state senators in Georgia on Thursday passed a bill that would force state libraries to cut ties with the American Library Association. Senate Bill 390 was passed by a vote of 33-20 vote with no support from Democratic senators. The bill’s supporters cited the ALA’s progressive policies and Emily Drabinski, the group’s lesbian president, as motivation for the legislation.

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Several states including Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas have announced or enacted some form of disassociation from the ALA, but the Georgia bill passed by the Senate yesterday would be the first to effectively ban nearly all association with the group.

“No county, municipality, school district, authority, division, instrumentality, political subdivision, or public body corporate created under the Constitution or laws of this state shall be authorized to use any taxpayer or privately donated funds on materials, services, or operations offered by the American Library Association or any of its affiliates,” the bill declares.

The bill had 22 primary sponsors, including Republican state Sen. Larry Walker, who told NPR he was upset to learn his local library worked with the ALA to increase literary representation for the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.

“I feel this is kind of being forced on our children and kind of shoved down our throat," Walker told NPR. "I'm a pretty tolerant individual, but this has gone too far."

Related: How to Fight Book Bans, According to the American Library Association's Queer President

Founded on October 6, 1876, the ALA is both the oldest and largest library association in the world. The group’s mission is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all,” according to the ALA website.

The group elected Drabinski as president in 2022, and she assumed office in July 2023. Shortly after her election victory, she posted a tweet celebrating the win while also confirming her political and sexual identities.

“I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of [the ALA]," Drabinski wrote in the since-deleted tweet. "I am so excited for what we will do together. Solidarity! And my mom is SO PROUD. I love you mom."

She later expressed regret for the tweet.

“I was excited to highlight and celebrate two aspects of my identity that are really important to me, and are often under a lot of scrutiny,” Drabinksi told NBC News in August of 2023, a month after she took office.

While she might have regretted the tweet, she made clear elsewhere that she was proud of her beliefs and identities.

“I tweeted that I was a ‘Marxist lesbian”’ when I won, and I absolutely am a Marxist, and absolutely am a lesbian, but I got a ton of blowback, which is not great,” Drabinski said in an interview with Red Fault in 2022, adding “we have to be brave, we have to be willing to fight” against the “totally hardcore racist ideals” of the right wing.

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