House OKs restriction on gay-themed books

By Michael McNutt

The Oklahoman

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Monday to urge library officials to restrict children’s access to books with homosexual themes.

House Resolution 1039, by state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, calls on Oklahoma libraries to “confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution.”

It passed, 81-3. Kern said she wanted to make public libraries aware of the “values that our state upholds” and make sure books are on the shelves “where they appropriately need to be.”

“There are a lot of books that children shouldn’t be reading,” Kern said. “This isn’t censorship, because I’m not asking that they be thrown away, be burned. I’m asking that they just be put in with adult collections and then if a parent wants their child to see a book like that they can check it out,” she said.

Three Democratic representatives — Opio Toure of Oklahoma City, Darrell Gilbert of Tulsa, and Glen Bud Smithson of Sallisaw — voted against the resolution.

“It’s all about censorship and trying to control what decisions people have the right to make on their own,” Gilbert said. “It’s up to the parents to make that decision, not the state to do that.”

Smithson said libraries in his district aren’t big enough to have separate adult and children’s sections.

“We have very good library boards and I just kind of hate to take that power away from our local libraries to choose the books that they display. They really don’t have room or the money to separate them,” he said. “Plus, I don’t see that necessarily blinding a child from some reading material is educational,” Smithson said. “I don’t really see that hiding a child from all the evils in the world is protecting a child from all evils in the world. At some point in their lives, they do have to start learning about a few of these things.”

House members passed the resolution after an Oklahoma County couple living in Kern’s district were surprised to learn that a book checked out by their child was about homosexual marriage.

Kern said HR 1039 will be distributed to the American Library Association, the Oklahoma Library Association, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, the Oklahoma City Council and the Metropolitan Library Commission.

The resolution noted that the development of children “requires certain guidance and protection by adults to ensure that their maturation is timely and results in a greater degree of personal responsibility and respect for their role in society.”

It also states that a child’s development “should be at the discretion of a child’s parents free from interference from the distribution of inappropriate publicly cataloged materials” and that public libraries should not expose children to material “that may be deemed harmful and inappropriate.”

Gilbert said this resolution was “run on the House floor for political fodder.” “Where’s the stopping point on this?” he asked. “If this is a book that you want to have in, quote, an adult-only access part of the library — which there aren’t any such things — you’re going to have to take every anatomy book and put it in there, too, because it has nude bodies in it, pictures of body parts. Where does it stop?”