In advance of a meeting where county commissioners in Hood County, Texas will hear citizen complaints against two LGBTQ-themed picture books in the local public library, CBLDF today joins with a coalition of free speech advocacy organizations led by the Kids’ Right to Read Project to send a letter in support of library director Courtney Kincaid, who has refused to move the books out of the children’s section.
Over 50 Hood County residents have filed formal challenges against My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone and This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman and Kristyna Litten. My Princess Boy is inspired by Kilodavis’ own gender-nonconforming son Dyson, who proclaimed at five years old in a segment on Today that “I’m a princess boy and I love wearing dresses and I love the colors of pink and red.” Kilodavis wrote and initially self-published the book, she said, as “a tool to hand to people to say, I don’t want you to crush my son’s spirit… I didn’t want that to happen. None of us do, as moms.”
This Day in June is a rhyming and kid-friendly description of attending a Pride Parade, e.g.: “Rainbow arches/Joyful marches/Motors roaring/Spirits soaring.” For parents or other adults who have difficulty discussing sexual orientation or gender expression with children, the book even includes an appendix with “suggestions for talking to various age levels of children about LGBT families,” according to a review from School Library Journal.
But while both books are eminently age-appropriate for the children’s section, some residents of Hood County maintain that they promote “perversion” and “the gay lifestyle,” and are demanding that the books be removed from the collection or at least moved to the adult section. In response to the controversy, library director Kincaid told local news station WFAA that “we’re here to serve the entire community, not just certain religious groups or political groups. Lesbians and gays are in this community and they deserve to have some items in this collection.”
In today’s letter, CBLDF and other KRRP coalition members pointed out that a nearly identical scenario has already been tested in Texas courts:
We understand that some patrons seek to remove the books from the children’s section to the adult section of the library. This would be constitutionally problematic. In Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, 121 F.Supp.2d 530 (2000), a case involving efforts to move LGBT-themed books from the children’s section to the adult section of the library, the court held that moving the books “unconstitutionally burdens the First Amendment rights of browsing Library patrons,” by creating “barriers to their access to fully-protected information.” Id. at 551.The district court further found that “[t]here simply is no interest, let alone a compelling one, in restricting access to non-obscene, fully-protected library books solely on the basis of the majority’s disagreement with their perceived message.” Id. at 552. As the court observed, parents who do not wish their children to read such books can restrict their own children’s reading; however, they have no right to interfere with other parents’ decisions about what their kids can see and read.
We applaud Kincaid and her staff for maintaining a collection that serves all members of the community! Here’s hoping tomorrow evening’s meeting will be an opportunity for dialogue rather than rancor. Read the entire KRRP letter below.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.