ACLU of Louisiana pushes back against AG Jeff Landry's proposed rules for libraries

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The Louisiana chapter of the Americans for Civil Liberties Union released an open letter Wednesday criticizing Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s call for increased regulation of content in public libraries.

Landry released a report in February on what he called sexually-explicit content in Louisiana’s public libraries and called for the legislature to pass new regulations that would require libraries to create a new card system that would allow parents to indicate whether their children could check out explicit materials.

“Our First Amendment rights to read, explore, and debate new ideas is about more than principle,” ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms said in a statement. “A free exchange of ideas is crucial to understanding our history and charting our path for the future. The ACLU of Louisiana offers this letter as an informative resource to those pushing back against censorship in their communities and the intolerance and exclusion that underlies it.”

More:Louisiana AG releases report on 'sexually-explicit' content in public libraries

The report listed some of the books that were considered to be explicit, with several of them being about LGBTQ+ issues. Landry has repeatedly rebuffed claims that his stance is not about limiting expression of certain viewpoints, but is instead about keeping potentially explicit material and images from minors.

Many LGBTQ+ organizations in Louisiana have been critical of the move, with the Louisiana Trans Advocates saying in a statement that the potential regulations would “chip away at our citizens' Freedom of Speech."

In the open letter, the ACLU of Louisiana offered information about the U.S. Constitution’s protections against censorship and viewpoint discrimination. The letter also has some information about some of the books listed in Landry’s report and how they deal with LGBTQ+, gender or racial issues.

“We still grapple with the legacy of oppression against Black and Brown people, women and girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals,” Odoms said in the statement. “Suppressing information about these ideas opens the door to suppression of any others that politicians don’t like. And for countless LGBTQ+ youth who face bullying, isolation, and depression in their communities, representation in books and literature can be a lifesaving refuge. 

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“Public libraries are places where young people should be able to learn about themselves and people who are different from themselves, not denied access to the diverse perspectives that books and art offer us all,” Odoms said.

A bill based on Landry’s recommendations has been filed for the upcoming legislative session. In addition to the card system, Senate Bill 7 by Republican Rep. Heather Cloud of Turkey Creek would require that libraries consider the “community standards for the population served by the library” when accepting a donation or buying materials.