An Oklahoma library has canceled a romance book club and a sexual-awareness program after its board voted to ban programs on sexuality.
The board of directors of the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County in Enid voted 3-2 last week to ban book displays and programs that focus on sexual content, Public Radio Tulsa reported.
“We’re not restricting anyone’s access,” the board’s chairman and policy author, Joseph Fletcher, argued before the vote. “We’re not kicking books out. We’re talking about not having displays or programs that focus on anyone’s viewpoint on sex and sexuality.”
As a result, the library canceled a Sexual Assault Awareness Month program and the inaugural Shameless Romance book club meeting, according to CNN.
In addition, the library staff decided that plans for book displays on LGBTQ+ pride would have to be canceled.
Theri Ray, the library’s interim director, said the projects were canceled “in accordance with the adopted policy” – though the board had initially said the book club and sexual assault awareness book display could stay.
“The library director is tasked with implementing the policy as written,” Ray told CNN.
Critics and literary advocates have slammed the action as a hypocritical legislative attempt to prohibit discussions and materials about LGBTQ+ issues.
The policy states that library programs and exhibits should be “non-partisan” and “will not make as their object the study of sex, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual preferences, sexual identity, gender identity, or subjects that are of a sexual nature,” CNN reported.
Cindy Nguyen, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said the wording was taken directly from a bill that is halted in the state legislature.
The bill proposes to forbid materials discussing sexuality in classrooms — a concept that critics view as similar to a controversial Florida law dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
“We know it’s pretty clearly linked,” Nguyen told CNN.
“We’re expecting to see these policies pop up in legislatures across the country,” she told the network. “Anything that can be connected to critical race theory or LGBTQ issues, there will be an attempt at chilling speech.”
Last summer, a Pride Month-themed display at the library drew condemnation from several citizens.
“We do not need to bring in divisive things into a public building,” one resident said, according to the Enid News & Eagle.