Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, left, has called for legislation to restrict what children and teens can check out from public libraries. State Rep. Julie Emerson, center, and Sen. Health Cloud will carry bills to achieve those objectives in the regular session that starts April 10. (Remi Tallo/Louisiana Illuminator)
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has called for legislation to restrict what children and teens can check out from public libraries. He released a report Tuesday on what he considers sexually explicit materials available to minors at libraries.
Landry is also a candidate for governor who has been endorsed by the Republican Party of Louisiana.
His “Protecting Innocence” report includes excerpts from several books Landry singled out after a months-long investigation into public libraries. Several of the books include LGBTQ themes and are among the most challenged books in the nation and state by groups that are seeking restrictions similar to Landry’s.
Among the books are “Gender Queer,” an autobiographical graphic novel by Maia Kobabe about the author’s journey with gender and sexual orientation for young adults. Also on Landry’s list is “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson, a series of essays about the author’s experience growing up gay and Black.
Landry denied he is specifically targeting books with LGBTQ themes.
“This is not about banning lifestyles or any other topic,” Landry said. “This is again, about protecting the innocence of children in this state. Any member of the press or public who says otherwise is purposely being dishonest about making this more about just protecting children.”
Age-appropriate books with LGBTQ themes often end up in the crosshairs of conservative officials and proponents for restrictions despite claims they are only seeking to protect children from sexually explicit material.
Landry recently set up a tip line seeking complaints about libraries to protect children from “early sexualization, as well as grooming, sex trafficking, and abuse.”
Critics have called out conservatives for misappropriating the term “groomer,” which typically refers to the behaviors sexual predators use to coerce potential victims, to characterize benign actions by LGBTQ people as harmful to children.
Ed Abraham, an organizer with Real Name Campaign, argued that Landry is trying to deny LGBTQ youth access to stories that represent their experiences.
“The bill announced today by Attorney General Jeff Landry was not written to protect children,” Abraham said in a press release. “It was written as part of a nationally coordinated effort by conservative politicians to rally the far-right, disappear LGBTQ+ people, and erase the gains of the LGBTQ+ movement.”
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Landry said he was unsure whether comments sent to the tip line were used to formulate the report, but he noted the Louisiana Department of Justice’s investigation into libraries began before the online form was set up.
Landry was accompanied at the press conference by several local officials and state lawmakers, including Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, who prefiled a bill Tuesday morning that would require libraries to put policies in place to limit children’s and teen’s access to “sexually explicit” materials.
Senate Bill 7 would require libraries to set up a card system. It would allow parents or guardians to choose a card that indicates whether minors are allowed to check out certain materials. The bill also sets new standards for material reviews that would give local library boards the final say on what is sexually explicit. In most parish libraries, a committee of librarians and library employees determine which books are removed from their collections.
Cloud’s bill also sets out financial penalties for libraries that do not comply. It forbids the State Bond Commission from approving the financial packages for any construction projects that would benefit a noncompliant library. The proposal would also allow, but not require, local governments to withhold funding from libraries.
Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carenco, said she plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
Landry was also joined by Livingston Parish Councilmember Erin Sandefur, who formerly served on the parish’s Library Board of Control. As a library board member, Sandefur called on the board to reconsider several LGBTQ children’s books with no sexually explicit content.
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