Bill Watch — Update on HB 666

A dutch angle of the columns in front of a court house

New information came to light recently regarding Idaho’s House Bill 666, supporting the fact that two graphic novels, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, were targeted by the legislation. HB 666, in a nutshell, removes the protections granted to librarians for “disseminating material harmful to minors.” It would open the gates to librarians being fined up to $1,000 and spending up to a year in jail for loaning the “wrong” book.

The Idaho Press received a copy of the “super-secret” folder passed around the house among lawmakers that contained examples of the types of books this bill would hope to target. Examples in the folder included images from Fun Home and Gender Queer. Using these two award-winning graphic novels as examples of “harmful material” is a red flag the bill is promoting personal preferences of material and not looking out for the safety of students. Gender Queer has been mischaracterized for months across the nation in an attempt to remove LGBTQ content from schools.

The good news is it looks probable the bill will die. The bill was read for the first time in the Senate on March 8 and referred to the State Affairs Committee. Since then, there has been no movement on HB 666. There are several issues with the bill, chief among them is its vagueness. As Community Library Network director Amy Rodda notes,

The way the bill is written, it’s vague enough that it provides for a lot of loose interpretation. Who’s deciding what’s harmful to minors? Each individual is going to have their own opinion. Is it something that is legally obscene, or is it something someone is personally offended by? That makes it difficult. . . . Who would be charged? The person who bought the book for the library, the director, the person who shelved the book? The board members?

Though this bill appears that it will remain stagnate, we have seen some other troubling signs on the horizon. Tennessee has a similar bill, House Bill 1944, that would remove protections granted to school librarians. We’ve also heard reports of the superintendent of Granbury ISD in Texas holding a closed-door meeting with librarians. In the meeting, the superintendent reminded them they were a conservative community and said,

It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books. That’s what the governor has said that he will prosecute people for, and that’s what we’re pulling out.

These are examples of the mounting pressure being put on schools and librarians to censor works to avoid the possibility of issues. The attempts to push through vague bills operate on fear, not facts.

CBLDF and its partners have been battling ongoing and organized attempts to censor comics and other books in schools and libraries. You can join the struggle by making a donation or reporting censorship today!