Town Defunds Library After Fight Over LGBTQ Novel

A Michigan town recently voted to remove most funding from a library after a fight over an LGBTQ novel that was available in the library.

According to Bridge Michigan, voters in the Jamestown Township voted against a millage that was used to fund the Patmos Library in the town. The tax was rejected in a vote of 62 percent to 37 percent, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote to remove funding from the library came shortly after many voters criticized the library for the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir that was in the adult section. In the spring, many of the town's residents attended board meetings to demand the book be removed from shelves, but instead the library placed it behind the counter so it wasn't accessible to children, Bridge Michigan reported.

While speaking with Bridge Michigan following the vote, Patmos Library Board President Larry Walton said, "I wasn't expecting anything like this."

Library
A Michigan library was recently defunded following a fight over an LGBTQ novel. Above, a man browses through books at the Cecil H. Green Library on the Stanford University Campus in Stanford, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty

"The library is the center of the community. For individuals to be short-sighted to close that down over opposing LGBTQ is very disappointing," Walton told Bridge Michigan.

Prior to the vote on Tuesday, many of the residents opposed to the LGBTQ novel in the library created a group called the Jamestown Conservatives. According to Bridge Michigan, members of the conservative group previously handed out flyers during a parade that criticized the Gender Queer: A Memoir novel and said, "Pray that we can make changes and make the Patmos Library a safe and neutral place for our children."

Bridge Michigan also reported that some other residents placed lawn signs with similar remarks, including one that said, "50 percent increase to GROOM our kids? Vote NO on Library!"

Michigan Library Association Executive Director Debbie Mikula told Bridge Michigan that the vote against the Patmos Library millage was the only recent vote in the state that was rejected due to issues over the LGBTQ novel.

Newsweek reached out to the Michigan Library Association and the Patmos Library for comment.

In response to the vote, one resident, Salem Sousley, told Bridge Michigan "it turns my stomach." Sousley identifies as non-binary and added that "when I was growing up in Jenison (in Ottawa County), the language of who I was as a nonbinary person didn't exist yet. When I read 'Gender Queer,' it was the first time I ever saw myself represented in a book."

A similar situation occurred in Mississippi, where the executive director of the Madison County Library System, Tonja Johnson, accused Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee of withholding funding to a library over an LGBTQ book.

"Funding for this year was being withheld until we removed what he called 'homosexual material' from the library," Johnson told WAPT in Mississippi. "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."

In a statement sent to the local news station in January, Mayor Gene McGee said, "In my capacity as mayor, I simply believe the books are inappropriate for children....Sexual connotations are not appropriate for children when they enter the library."