The Alabama state legislator's bill to prevent public libraries and other public entities from owning, purchasing, or making accessible any materials regarding homosexuality or gay culture has been introduced as HB30, first read February 1, 2005.
It says that no public funds may be used by public libraries (or schools, colleges, universities) to purchase or promote printed or electronic materials that "recognize, foster, or promote a [homosexual] lifestyle."
Who would evaluate the materials? How would ever-changing databases be screened? What would the standards be for determining what would be promoting homosexuality? Would all materials on homosexuality be banned, since even materials condemning homosexuality recognize its existence? Would this new mandate become the full-time occupation for library staffs?
Read on more analysis viz a viz lessons learned from the history of free speech, libraries and the Supreme Court and for the text of HB30.
Over twenty years ago,the Supreme Court (plurality decision) determined that books could not be removed from a school library simply because the school board disagreed with books. "School officials may not remove books for the purpose of restricting access to the political ideas or social perspectives discussed in them, when that action is motivated simply by the officials' disapproval of the ideas involved.” Pico
This bill, limiting library materials based on viewpoint, is specifically what the Supreme Court stated is not constitutionally permissible (absent compelling circumstances).
It's nearly impossible to imagine that there are compelling circumstances here. In fact, the Supreme Court recently decided in that criminalizing private consensual acts of sodomy was unconstitutional. Lawrence v. Texas
Laws criminalizing consensual sodomy, such as Alabama's, are unenforceable, though they may stay "on the books." Alabama's recent attempt to officially remove obsolete and unconstitutional laws -- Amendment 2 -- concerning repealing portions of the state constitution regarding the separation of schools by race, poll taxes, and declaring that there would be no right to education -- failed.
But what about filtering? As you may know, the Supreme Court upheld a law that requires libraries to use technological protection measures (like filters) on Internet-use computers to prevent the visual display of child pornography, obscenity, and harmful to minors material as a condition to receive certain federal funds. These three categories of speech are outside the protection of the First Amendment. American Library Association.
Further, if a library does not filter, the worst that could happen is that the library would lose some federal government funds. The Alabama bill would hold librarians criminally liable.
Debates about homosexuality are continuing. Libraries -- as centers of knowledge -- should continue to collect and distribute information on this social issue and should not placed in fear of having balanced collections. Adults may ask to have the filters turned off and need not give a reason.
The text of House Bill 30 states:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT
To prohibit the expenditure or use of public funds or public facilities by any state agency or public entity for the purchase, production, or promotion of printed or 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.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE STATE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. In order to establish and insure good public policy and accountability in the use of state resources, it shall be the policy of the state of Alabama that:
(a) No public funds or public facilities shall be used by any state agency, public school, public library, or public college or university for the purchase, production, or promotion of printed or electronic materials or activities that, directly or indirectly, sanction, recognize, foster, or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state of Alabama. No public funds shall be used for the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle or encourages or proposes to public school children that they have a legitimate right to decide or choose illegal conduct.
(b) No state agency, public school, public library, or public college or university, directly or indirectly, shall require or encourage the entity's members or employees to provide information or materials or engage in any activities that, directly or indirectly, sanction, recognize, foster, or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and misconduct laws of Alabama.
(c) Any public employee who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
(d) This section shall not be construed to be a prior restraint of the First Amendment protected speech. It shall apply only to state agencies, public schools, public libraries, and public colleges and universities in the use of public funds and public facilities.
Section 2. The provisions of this act are severable. If any part of this act is declared invalid or unconstitutional, that declaration shall not affect the part which remains.
Section 3. All laws or parts of laws which conflict with this act are repealed.
Section 4. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.