Story at a glance
- A Mississippi mayor is withholding library funding until LGBTQ+ books are removed, according to the director of one of the state’s library systems.
- The mayor, Gene McGe of Ridgeland, Miss., has reportedly cited his own religious beliefs in withholding the money, which totals $110,000.
- A local official said the mayor does not have the power to unilaterally deny the funds to the library.
A Mississippi mayor is withholding public library funds totaling $110,000 as long as LGBTQ+ books remain on the shelves, citing his personal religious beliefs, according to the director of one of the state’s library systems.
Ridgeland, Miss. Mayor Gene McGe, after reportedly receiving multiple complaints from community members, demanded LGBTQ+ books be removed from public libraries before his office releases the money, Tonja Johnson, executive director of the Madison County Library System, told WAPT-TV on Thursday.
“Funding for this year was being withheld until we removed what he called ‘homosexual material’ from the library,” Johnson said. “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.”
Johnson said the library board will be requesting a public hearing before the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen, which approved the city budget in the fall.
Alderman Ken Heard told the station that the mayor does not have the power to unilaterally deny the funds to the library – a fact of which McGe in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press said he was not sure.
“That’s a legal question. I don’t know that I do or do not. But right now we’re holding the money. I’ll ask my attorney to address that,” he said.
In a statement to WAPT-TV, McGe said he felt obligated to take action after he was approached by “many” concerned residents, who felt the books were not appropriate for young children. He did not confirm whether he had been withholding funds over the inclusion of LGBTQ+ books.
“I have had many complaints from citizens about the display of certain books at the library. In my capacity as mayor, I simply believe the books are inappropriate for children. There is a minimum, sexual connotations are not appropriate for children when they enter the library,” he said.
McGe’s stance on LGBTQ+ material in public libraries is certainly not unique, and the movement to ban certain books – typically pertaining to race, gender, and sexuality – has been picking up speed over the last year.
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