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Library board members sue to stop far-right banning of LGBTQ+ books

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Three Louisiana residents who have resisted book bans are suing their parish council over the removal of books from the St. Tammany Library Board of Control earlier this month.

For over a year, the far-right St. Tammany Library Accountability Project has been trying to get books that they have deemed “sexually explicit” removed from the library. As of last September, the group had filed 215 complaints, and 172 books were removed from library shelves while staff assessed their sexual content. According to residents, the books aligned with a list of titles targeted for censorship by far-right groups like Moms for Liberty. As the Louisiana Illuminator reports, a majority of the titles challenged contain LGBTQ+ themes.

The St. Tammany Library Board of Control, however, has resisted the group’s calls to limit access to challenged books. On May 4, the conservative dominated St. Tammany parish council voted to replace five of the library board’s six members, claiming that they were not serving staggered terms in violation of the law.

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In their federal lawsuit, three of those five members — Bill McHugh, Anthony Parr, and Rebecca Taylor — claim that the parish council’s reason for removing them was an “obvious ploy,” and in fact their removal was retaliation for their resistance to book bans. McHugh, Parr, and Taylor argue that the parish council violated their First Amendment rights by removing them from the board.

“Plaintiffs were engaged in constitutionally protected activity when they spoke and acted at Library Bord [sic] meetings, as well as when they spoke out on matters of public concern such as the controversy over books with LGBTQ themes and characters, the presence or absence of sexually explicit material in libraries, whether or not certain materials available in libraries is ‘pornography’ or constitutes ‘obscenity,’ and whether and how minors have access to such materials,” the suit reads, according to the Illuminator.

The three board members are seeking to permanently block the council’s resolution to remove them, and have also asked for a temporary restraining order, allowing them to continue serving on the library board while the case plays out in court.

In addition to the parish council, the suit names Councilman David Cougle, a founder of and attorney for the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project.

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