An attempt to permanently ban a book about growing up LGBTQ from Lafayette Parish public libraries failed Monday.

Instead, "This Book is Gay" will be moved, along with all teen nonfiction books, to the adult nonfiction sections in public libraries.

Some in the library profession believe moving a book at all is censorship, Library Director Danny Gillane said, while others disagree.

A second book, "The V Word," now is facing a possible ban from Lafayette libraries. Michael Lunsford, a resident of St. Martin Parish who is executive director of the conservative group Citizens for a New Louisiana based in Lafayette, filed the complaint against "This Book is Gay" and confirmed to The Acadiana Advocate on Monday that he also filed the second complaint.

Like with the first complaint, a committee of two library employees and a board member will review the book and complaint. If Lunsford is not satisfied with the outcome, according to the library system's Collection Development Policy, he can appeal to the full board, which has the final decision.

Both books are on a list of books targeted for censorship that Lunsford obtained from MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Teen LGBTQ, sex education book in Lafayette Parish library challenged as pornography

The Lafayette Parish Library Board of Control on Monday voted 4-2 against a motion by board member Stephanie Armbruster to immediately remove "This Book is Gay" from parish public libraries, to discard the books and to ensure they are not returned to the libraries. New board President Robert Judge made the second. They were the only two who voted to ban the book.

Armbruster and Judge, before being appointed to the library board, were vocal opponents in 2018 to the library allowing Drag Queen Story Time in which men dressed as women read to children.

Gillane said he decided before the board meeting to relocate teen nonfiction books to the adult nonfiction section because of complaints that preceded Lunsford's formal complaint.

In the main library in downtown Lafayette, all nonfiction teen books will be removed from the first floor they share with teen fiction and children's books. The teen nonfiction section is tucked away in a corner of the teen section, well hidden from and separated from the children's section.

Books about LGBTQ teens are on the same rack but different shelves from books like a teen cookbook, a college prep guide and computer programming books

Calling "This Book is Gay" unnecessarily explicit and graphic, Armbruster said it "promotes the objectification and exploitation of children," promotes the use of pornography by children and promotes promiscuity.

Armbruster said she will not approve material that “sets up children to be abused, exploited and victimized and I’m deeply disturbed to see that our librarians, those who have the responsibility of selecting materials to be purchased in libraries, advocate for this material."

Cara Chance, manager of the North Regional Library, asked who the board members think they are to deny taxpayers with different moral values the right to resources they and their children may want.

"These are the people we serve. We don’t serve the board," Chance said. "We serve the public and the public is made up of a lot of different individuals with a lot of different stories. Who are you to try to drown them out?"

Vacancies on Lafayette Parish Library Board an opportunity to add to right-leaning trend

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Thirty people, including LGBTQ adults and teens, parents and supporters addressed the board Monday, all against banning "This Book is Gay."

Several speakers told the board that it can be a matter of life and death for some teens to have access to books like this as they struggle with being different and are unable to speak with parents or peers about being LGBTQ.

"Books like this gave me the courage to come out to my parents," said Lena Self, 16, who described herself as bisexual.

While her parents are accepting and loving, Self said not all are and it's important to provide them with resources to help prevent STDs and bad experiences.

"I was the young kid that needed this book," Matthew Humphrey, president of PFLAG and self-described Drag Queen Story Time "boogeyman," said. Abused at home, he lived in secrecy and fear, was kicked out of the house at 17 and turned to drugs, alcohol and food to heal his pain, he said.

"This book should be in the library because somebody like me needs it now," Humphrey added.

The book, Lynette Mejia said, has been sitting in the library since 2015 and nobody complained about it and no toddlers wandered over to it and were traumatized.

"There's one person who pulled if off the shelf and is trying to tear our community apart with it," she said, threatening to file a lawsuit with the ACLU if the board banned the book.

Others, such as University of Louisiana at Lafayette faculty member Rick Swanson, warned that censoring this book starts the board down a slippery slope. Everyone can probably find a book in the library about which they object, he said. But free speech is necessary for democracy.

"Censorship is unconstitutional and un-American," Swanson said.

Library Board member Doug Palombo said he doesn't support censorship and agreed it sets a bad precedent.

"My concern reading parts of the book is there are things in there that are just completely unnecessary," he said, "some that details that just seemed lewd and crude and pornographic."

Moving the book to the adult nonfiction area resolves his concerns, Palombo said.

After an hour of public comment and additional comments from the board, Judge, who routinely wears a cross around his neck, rose before the standing room only crowd and held up the book, displaying what he said was a drawing depicting a person in a disparaging situation holding a Bible, which religious people might interpret as bigotry toward themselves.

The book, Judge said, contains a section on how to argue with a Christian, which disparages scripture.

Judge read from the book about a 15-year-old in a relationship with an older married man, which he said is adultery and in Louisiana is statutory rape.


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.