Republican Representative Ben Baker of Missouri, in his infinite wisdom, has proposed a bill that would make hosting Drag Queen Story Time punishable by one-year imprisonment or a $500 fine, according to News-Leader.
The lawmaker from Neosho, Mo created a plan that would require libraries to regulate Drag Queen Story Time and similar events in the library because, in his view, they are “sexual material.” Any library refusing to comply with these regulations would no longer receive state money and individual librarians would have to spend a year in jail or pay a fine. Baker said that he is trying to allow parents who disagree with library planning to change things.
Understandably, not everyone is happy with Baker’s plan. Shira Berkowitz , a spokeswoman for the LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO, said that Drag Queen Story Time is important in that it gives children a chance to see LGBTQ people in a positive way instead of seeing them as “others.” She also commented that it is especially important because in Missouri, LGBTQ people can be denied housing because of their sexuality.
Now I personally have never cared much for drag, but I think that it’s a valid form of expression and I agree with Berkowitz; I can see how these events could teach children that LGBTQ people aren’t bad people, but instead people who want to live their lives authentically like everyone else.
Libraries are also not happy with Representative Baker’s plan, as Missouri Library Association President Cynthia Dudenhoffer said that her organization “will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read, and therefore opposes Missouri House Bill 2044.” Censoring books is reminiscent of the literary Auto-da-fés that have been used throughout history to silence people. Was that analogy too extreme?
Anyway, even people not from Missouri are speaking out against the proposed bill. James Tager of PEN America, a New York-based organization dedicated to the preservation of free expression, said that the plan is “a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri.”
I think it’s a bit extreme to jail people for hosting an innocuous event in libraries, but I have become jaded towards things like this. Book censoring has never been a good thing so this bill can only do more harm than the good Baker wishes it to do.