A petition is calling for LGBTQ books at an Iowa library to be segregated from the rest of the materials and subjected to a content rating system.
The board of Orange City Public Library in Orange Citya small town an hour’s drive from Sioux Citymet on Tuesday to discuss the entreaty, which has been signed by over 300 local residents. The petition asks that LGBTQ-inclusive books be specifically labeled as such, along with a rating system to help parents determine if the text is appropriate.
It also urges the library to halt acquisitions of queer-inclusive books until a decision can be reached, as the Des Moines Register originally reported.
Prior to the public meeting, fliers in the town warned the library was distributing “homosexual/transgender promoting materials… using your tax dollars!” “Do we want books aimed at Pre-K children promoting behavior the Bible calls ‘unnatural,’ ‘detestable,’ and an ‘abomination?’” the one-sheet reads.
The crowd at the Feb. 20 meeting was evenly divided between supporters of the petition and those who warned sectioning off LGBTQ content would send a harmful message to the town’s queer and transgender youth.
Petitioners believe books like Two Boys Kissing and This Day In June (which is about a Pride parade) promote an agenda antithetical to their values.
“As a congregation, I would have to say we are shocked that tax money is being used to push this agenda even further,” said Rev. Sacha Walicord, a pastor at Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, during the public debate. “As pastors, we have been silent for far too long. We have rolled over for far too long. This ends now.”
“We won’t roll over,” he continued. “We will stand up and we will fight.”
Terry Chi, who started the petition, said complainants don’t want to prohibit LGBTQ-inclusive materials. They just want a say in what their children read.
“We’re not asking for banning because I know that would just sink our ship,” Chi, a psychology professor at local Northwestern College, told the crowd. “We’re asking for transparency in the process and some public conversation before new materials are acquired.”
But former Orange City Public Library Director Sue Kroesche asserted that parents already have the ability to monitor the literature kids bring home.
“No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head,” Kroesche claimed.
“We believe people should have access to as much material as possible, and it’s up to them as a community to decide what they should and should not read with their families,” added Iowa Library Association President-Elect Dan Chibnall.
Others argued stigmatizing and censoring LGBTQ materials takes away valuable resources for youth.
“There are gay kids, there are [transgender] kids in this town, and seeing their faces and seeing their lives mirrored in some of the books here means everything,” said Mike Goll, a resident of Orange City.
Out of 68,000 texts currently in circulation at the Orange City Public Library, just 168 are geared toward the LGBTQ communityaround .2 percent of its catalog. Officials with the library pointed out that many of these books have been available at the branch for years with very few complaints.
The board did not come to a decision this week and claimed it would be working with the Iowa Library Association to address public input.
Next month the Orange County Public Library will hear a separate complaint in regards to Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, a children’s book about a genderfluid boy. The book was also challenged in 2016 by a Michigan parent after it was read to his son’s third grade class.
The Iowa library may be hampered in its ability to restrict LGBTQ materials, as the Newton Daily News initially reported.
The Orange County Public Library has pledged to uphold the Library Bill of Rights, a set of guidelines from the American Library Association which proclaims that texts should not be “removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval” or concerns over LGBTQ content.