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Oklahoma House of Representatives Passes Anti-Gay Book Ban

The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 81-3 to pass House Resolution 1039, introduced in May 2005. The bill by state Representative Sally Kern, (R-Oklahoma City) calls on Oklahoma libraries to "confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution."1 The bill also requires that no public funds be used in "the distribution of such materials to children."2 The bill is a nonbinding resolution and will be sent out to library boards across the state and other affected parties.

Rep. Kern explained, "there are some issues little children aren’t emotionally equipped to tackle and many parents believe the issue of sexual preference is one of them… Expecting six-year-olds to deal with the issue of sexuality is about as realistic as expecting them to carry a 100-pound backpack to school every day. Parents have a right to know that certain books deal with age-sensitive issues and decide for themselves if their child is ready to read those materials."3

The three democratic representatives who voted against the measure, however, said it would strip power from local library boards and would strain their already stretched resources.4 Darrell Gilbert (D-Tulsa) explained his outrage saying, "where’s the stopping point on this? If this is a book that you want to have in, quote, an adult-only access part of the library – which there aren’t any such things – you’re going to have to take every anatomy book and put it in there, too, because it has nude bodies in it, pictures of body parts. Where does it stop?"5

Kern responded to critics and said, "this isn’t censorship, because I’m not asking that they be thrown away, be burned. I’m asking that they just be put in with adult collections and then if a parent wants their child to see a book like that they can check it out."6

The debate over books dealing with sexual orientation followed a controversy in Kern’s district in March over the children’s book King and King.7 Two parents complained after their 6-year-old found the book in the children’s section of an Oklahoma City area public library. King and King tells the story of a character named Prince Bertie who falls in love with a character named Prince Lee. It is written for readers ages six and up by two Dutch authors and has been the subject of several controversies around the country. Kern called the book "obscene."8

Many library staff in Oklahoma do not agree with the resolution. The executive director of the Oklahoma County Metropolitan System, which includes the library involved in the initial controversy, said that they will continue to rely on their internal vetting system despite the new resolution.

Oklahoma is not the only state to deal with this issue. Alabama state representative Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) introduced similar legislation in February 2005. House bill 30l would have prohibited any state agency or public entity from using public funds or facilities to purchase electronic materials or activities that "sanction, recognize, foster, or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state."9 Under this bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors or about gay characters.10 Allen had a similar viewpoint as Kern and explained, "I don’t look at it as censorship… I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."11 The bill ultimately died, however, because not enough legislators were present when it came time for a vote.

"These bills represent a dangerous trend in America," said Bill Smith, vice-president of public policy at SIECUS, "the sad fact is that when censorship wins, we as a nation lose."


  1. Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division, "Lawmakers Vote to Restrict Access to Homosexual-Themed Children’s Books," Press Release, 9 May 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  2. State Sexual and Reproductive Health Legislative Reports, SIECUS (2005), accessed 11 May 2005.
  3. "Lawmakers Vote to Restrict Access."
  4. United Press International, "Okla. Lawmakers Vote to Restrict Gay Books," The Washington Times, 10 May 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  5. "Oklahoma House Passes Gay Book Ban,", 10 May 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  6. United Press International.
  7. "Oklahoma House Passes Gay Book Ban,", 10 May 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  8. Ibid.
  9. In 2003, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in Lawrence v. Texas which declared state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior to be unconstitutional.
  10. "Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors,", 27 April 2005, accessed 11 May 2005.
  11. Ibid.