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New bill would ban “sexual content” from minors’ shelves in public libraries

A second bill has been filed that would allow librarians to be held criminally liable for breaking Alabama obscenity law.

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A second bill has been filed that would allow librarians to be held criminally liable for breaking Alabama obscenity law, but the newer bill focuses primarily on keeping “sexual content” away from minors.

HB425, sponsored by Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, comes on the heels of a separate bill—HB385 by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs—that would also remove the criminal exemption status for libraries and librarians. While speaking on that bill in committee, Mooney errantly referenced numerous sections of this bill, which he is co-sponsoring.

According to current law, a person who distributes content harmful to minors can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to one year. Yarbrough’s bill does not change any definitions of what material is considered “harmful to minors,” so the criminality would only apply to what is currently defined under the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act.

This bill prohibits libraries from distributing “sexual content” to minors, which it defines as “any material, including physical, digital, or audio material, that includes content regarding sexual conduct, sexuality, or gender ideology that the average individual, applying contemporary community standards, would find inappropriate for a minor to consume without the permission of his or her parent or guardian.”

The bill says that educational material like anatomy or biology is not applicable to be defined as sexual content.

According to the legislation “gender ideology” is defined as believing there are more genders than male or female and that gender is a social construct. “Sexuality” is not defined in the bill.

The bill goes a step further by preventing libraries from purchasing any materials containing “sexual content” if they are recommended for minors by the publisher.

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Yarbrough’s legislation also gives parents two options to seek action against a library or librarians. If a minor is deemed to have been given “sexual content” a parent can pursue an action against the offender, which would includes libraries, in the form of several remedies.

Or if a library was found to have purchased or accepted a donation of “sexual content” a parent could seek injunctive relief against the library.

Lastly, the legislation would prohibit libraries or other entities from receiving state funds if they are affiliated with the American Library Association. 

The clear impetus for the bill is the continued battle taking place pertaining to content in libraries and many spectators never believed the battle would lead to librarians being jailed. Well, this bill lays the definitive groundwork for that to happen.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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