Greenville County Council members show support for limiting LGBTQ library books | Greenville News

GREENVILLE — Members of the Greenville County Council have expressed support for the removal of LGBTQ-themed books from children’s sections of the Greenville County Library system after hearing from nearly two dozen residents who spoke out for and against limiting access to certain LGBTQ publications.

It marked the most visible stance to date taken by county officials amid growing controversy over the county public library’s stance on LGBTQ materials and support for LGBTQ programs held at library branches. .

The comments at the Oct. 27 board meeting came days after the library board voted to temporarily rename all of its book clubs “book club” to eliminate references to the “romance” brand or “LGBTQIA+” on Library Event Guides.

The board is considering a policy of “neutrality” as it assesses how and whether to promote sponsored events that contain controversial topics.

In early September, the county’s Republican Party urged the county council to limit access to LGBTQ-themed children’s books to the adult section of the library. The council has yet to take any action.

Last month, a number of supporters of continued access to the books addressed the council. This time, speakers who wanted to limit access to books dominated the speaking time, met with loud applause and cheers by others in the Greenville County Square audience.

Speakers who want to limit access to certain children’s books have called on the county council to order the county library board to remove the books. If they did not, residents wanted the library trustees removed or the county council withheld funding for the library.

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Council chairman Willis Meadows initially told residents they were going to the wrong body. He told the residents that they should talk to the library board instead and that the board only appoints the library trustees and approves the annual budget.

But locals continued to press for the council to do more.

Speakers specifically cited a sexually explicit book that GCGOP President Jeff Davis said he found in the children’s section of the library. Councilman Stan Tzouvelekas held the book and said he would not allow it to be in the children’s section of the library.

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Councilor Ennis Fant then said council should consider passing a resolution asking the library board to limit access to sexually explicit material.

“If you can go to jail for having sex with someone at 16, then why are you teaching them at 4?” Fan said.

The library system already has policies in place that restrict access to sexually explicit material for minors unless a parent or guardian gives permission.

Susan Ward, president of PFLAG Greenville, an LGBTQ support organization, said librarians had already confirmed to her that the book in question was not available in the children’s section. She said the books targeted by GCGOP were not sexually explicit but were books that depicted LGBTQ families.

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“Restricting access to these books, removing them, sends a message to LGBTQ youth that their very existence is such a dangerous idea that it must be taken down,” Ward said.

Fant said he would only support a resolution regarding sexually explicit content, not a resolution to limit access to LGBTQ-themed children’s books.

Tzouvelekas also said he would seek to remove funding from the library budget if the council did not act.

“In January, when they come up for approval, if it’s not settled, I’m voting no for their budget,” Tzouvelekas said.

Fant later said he would not vote to remove funding from the library system. He wondered if the county even had authority over library funding, since state law governs much of it.

Cutting library funding would only hurt those who need library access the most, he said.

Follow Nathaniel Cary on Twitter at @nathanielcary

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