Officials: Dispute over ‘homosexual material’ in Mississippi public library settled
Published 5:59 am Thursday, April 14, 2022
A Mississippi library is on track to receive the full amount of money it was budgeted, months after a mayor threatened to withhold 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, news outlets reported. In a joint statement, the two sides said they support a diverse library collection “consistent 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, providing far more than access to books,” the statement said.
John Scanlon, an attorney representing Ridgeland, told WLBT-TV that the city does not 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 received citizen complaints about books that depicted members of the LGBTQ community.
“Funding for this year was being withheld until we removed what he called ‘homosexual material’ from the library,” Johnson told WAPT-TV. “His reasoning that he gave was that, as a Christian, he could not support that, and that he would not release funding until we remove the material.”
The move is part of a larger trend of conservatives trying to limit the type of books available to children. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Holocaust was banned by a Tennessee school district, while the Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas have called on superintendents to perform a systematic review of “inappropriate” materials in their states’ schools.
In a statement to news outlets in January, McGee didn’t expressly confirm that he was withholding public money over LGBTQ literature but said he believes some of the books are “inappropriate for children.”
“Sexual connotations are not appropriate for children when they enter the library,” said McGee, a Republican who has been mayor of the Jackson suburb since 1989.
The Ridgeland Board of Aldermen approved the city budget in the fall. Alderman Ken Heard said early this year that the mayor lacked the authority to unilaterally deny funds to the library.