Officials: Mississippi Public Library ‘Gay Material’ Dispute Settled – Magnolia State Live
A Mississippi library is on track to receive all of the budgeted money, months after a mayor threatened to cut funding because the library displayed LGBTQ books for young readers.
The city of Ridgeland and the Madison County Library System reached an agreement this week to end the dispute, media reported. In a joint statement, the two parties said they support a diverse library collection “in accordance with the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights.”
“Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Our libraries are a repository of knowledge and culture, offering much more than access to books,” the statement read.
John Scanlon, an attorney representing Ridgeland, told WLBT-TV that the city doesn’t determine what material the library puts on its shelves.
“The new contract says nothing about the city controlling the contents of the library,” Scanlon said.
Tonja Johnson, executive director of the Madison County Library System, said in January that Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee said he would withhold $110,000 from the Ridgeland Library because he had received complaints from citizens about books depicting members of the LGBTQ community.
“Funding for this year has been held back until we remove what he called ‘gay material’ from the library,” Johnson told WAPT-TV. “The reasoning he gave was that as a Christian he couldn’t support this and wouldn’t release funding until we removed the material.”
The move is part of a larger trend of conservatives trying to limit the type of books available for children. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Holocaust has been banned by a Tennessee school district, while Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas have called on superintendents to conduct a systematic review of ‘inappropriate’ materials at schools in their states.
In a statement to news outlets in January, McGee did not expressly confirm he was withholding public money from LGBTQ literature, but said he believed some of the books were “inappropriate for children.”
“Sexual overtones are not appropriate for children when they walk into the library,” said McGee, a Republican who has served as mayor of suburban Jackson since 1989.
The Ridgeland Board of Aldermen approved the city budget in the fall. Alderman Ken Heard said earlier this year that the mayor does not have the power to unilaterally withhold funds from the library.