RIDGELAND, Miss. (AP) — The director of a Mississippi library system says a mayor is withholding $110,000 from his city’s library because LGBTQ books are on the shelves.
Tonja Johnson, executive director of the Madison County Library System, told news outlets that Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee received citizen complaints about a handful of books that depicted members of the LGBTQ community.
“Funding for this year was being withheld until we removed what he called ‘homosexual material’ from the library,” Johnson told WAPT-TV. “His reasoning that he gave was that, as a Christian, he could not support that, and that he would not release funding until we remove the material.”
The move is part of a larger trend of conservatives across the country trying to limit the type of books that children are exposed to. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Holocaust was recently banned by a Tennessee school district, while the Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas have called on superintendents to perform a systemic review of “inappropriate” materials in their states’ schools.
In a statement to news outlets, McGee didn’t expressly confirm that he wasn’t providing the funding over LGBTQ literature but said he believes some of the books are “inappropriate for children.”
“There is a minimum, sexual connotations are not appropriate for children when they enter the library,” said McGee, a Republican who has been mayor of the Jackson suburb since 1989.
The Ridgeland Board of Aldermen approved the city budget in the fall, and Alderman Ken Heard told WAPT that the mayor doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally deny funds to the library.
Johnson said the library board will request a public hearing before the Board of Aldermen to seek clarification and receive the funds, according to the television station.
A meeting was held at Ridgeland’s library Tuesday night to discuss the ultimatum. Jason McCarty, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group MS Capital City Pride, attended and said he believes libraries should be safe spaces where people can learn about new things.
“I think when we start putting our personal opinions into situations, that’s when we can go wrong,” McCarty told WLBT-TV.