Legislation passed by the House of Representatives late Wednesday would withhold public library funding if books containing sexually explicit or homosexual content are not placed in an adult-only section.
House Bill 2158, by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, would require public libraries in the state to segregate books recommended by a newly formed State Library Material Content Advisory Board, or risk losing state funding.
According to the bill, the books must contain specific and graphic sexual references, not just mention sex. Books containing homosexual themes must recruit and advocate same gender sexual relationships before separation is required by the legislation.
Supporters of the bill say parents should decide whether their children can have access to these books.
"Libraries and librarians should not be usurping the role of parents, Kern said. "You can't sell toothpaste without sex. Our society is obsessed with sex. And I will tell you this, the American Library Association is out to sexualize our children.
But, opponents, including the Oklahoma Library Association, say the legislation removes local control and will cost libraries especially rural libraries already-limited funds.
No appeals process
Many librarians also worry the bill is too subjective, and question the number of books that would have to be moved.
Rep. Glen Bud Smithson, D-Sallisaw, opposed the bill because it doesn't give libraries an appeals process to fight a loss of funding. He likened the bill to legislation Osama bin Laden likely would support, saying "that is the way they do it over there. They teach them what they want to teach them and nothing else.
The library systems in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have already moved many books containing questionable material, but Kern said they have not gone far enough, saying the move was merely a "token gesture.
"If they want local control, then let them use only local dollars, Kern said. "They are using state dollars, which gives us the authority to intervene.
Rep. Mike Wilt, R-Bartlesville, said he believes children should not be exposed to explicit material, but that decision should be left up to the local library boards. He said this bill is no different than when the federal government passes unfunded mandates onto local governments.
"How many times are we going to run a state bill to fix an Oklahoma City problem? he said.
An advisory board cannot decide what books should be included in each diverse, local community, said Rep. Debbie Blackburn, D-Oklahoma City.
"It doesn't seem that you can legislate morality. This is a slippery slope, she said. "Once you start with one thing, where do you go from there?
The bill passed the House late Wednesday after more than two hours of discussion with a vote of 60-33 and likely faces an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.Archive ID: 3070082