Last edited: December 01, 2004

Gay Book Ban Goal of State Lawmaker

The Birmingham News, December 1, 2004

By Kim Chandler, News staff writer

MONTGOMERY—An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for “the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the “homosexual agenda.”

“Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle,” Allen said in a press conference Tuesday.

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

“I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them,” he said.

A spokesman for the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center called the bill censorship.

“It sounds like Nazi book burning to me,” said SPLC spokesman Mark Potok.

Allen pre-filed his bill in advance of the 2005 legislative session, which begins Feb. 1.

If the bill became law, public school textbooks could not present homosexuality as a genetic trait and public libraries couldn’t offer books with gay or bisexual characters.

When asked about Tennessee Williams’ southern classic “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” Allen said the play probably couldn’t be performed by university theater groups.

Allen said no state funds should be used to pay for materials that foster homosexuality. He said that would include nonfiction books that suggest homosexuality is acceptable and fiction novels with gay characters. While that would ban books like “Heather has Two Mommies,” it could also include classic and popular novels with gay characters such as “The Color Purple,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Brideshead Revisted.”

The bill also would ban materials that recognize or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of Alabama. Allen said that meant books with heterosexual couples committing those acts likely would be banned, too.

His bill also would prohibit a teacher from handing out materials or bringing in a classroom speaker who suggested homosexuality was OK, he said.

Allen has sponsored legislation to make a gay marriage ban part of the Alabama Constitution, but it was not approved by the Legislature.

Ken Baker, a board member of Equality Alabama, a gay rights organization, said Allen was “attempting to become the George Wallace of homosexuality.”

Aside from the moral debates, the bill could be problematic for library collections, said Jaunita Owes, director of the Montgomery City-County Library, which is a few blocks from the Alabama Capitol.

“Half the books in the library could end up being banned. It’s all based on how one interprets the material,” Owes said.


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