Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen (R) has proposed a bill that would ban all books with gay characters or themes from public libraries, schools, or universities. Allen has also sought to ban gay marriages through an amendment to the state constitution.
If it were to pass, the bill would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."1 In 2003, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in Lawrence v. Texas which declared all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior to be unconstitutional.2 Despite this decision Alabama still has a sodomy and sexual misconduct law outlawing homosexual behavior. In a press conference Allen referenced this obsolete law as precedent for his new bill. He maintains that all materials that "promote" these formerly illegal acts should also be banned.3
Banned books would include non-fiction books that present homosexuality as genetically influenced or works of fiction that involve gay or lesbian protagonists. At a press conference Allen was asked about Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and agreed that under the new law university theater groups would not be able to perform the play.4 Other banned works would include The Color Purple, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brideshead Revisited. Allen did not specify whether all literature by gay or lesbian authors would also be banned.
It was also unclear what guidelines would be used to determine which books would be prohibited. This uncertainty concerned many librarians. The director of the Montgomery City-County Library, for example, commented, "half the books in the library could end up being banned. It's all based on how one interprets the material."5 In addition to community libraries, publicly funded university libraries could suffer deep losses. Majors like women's studies and sociology inevitably rely on materials that speak about homosexuality. Departments of English or Literature would almost certainly be affected as well.
Allen reportedly filed the bill in an effort to protect the state's children from the "homosexual agenda." His suggestion on what to do with the banned books was, "dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them."6
Many have pointed out that the proposed bill is unconstitutional and represents a form of censorship. A spokesperson for Equality Alabama, a gay rights organization, remarked that Allen was "attempting to become the George Wallace of homosexuality."7 Alabama Representative Alvin Holmes (D) also criticized Allen for using this measure to enhance his standing with right-wing conservatives.8
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