Illinois passes bill to end book bans: ‘A triumph for our democracy’

A person holds a sign reading "only bigots ban books, only racists ban history."

Illinois is set to become the first state in the US to to prevent book bans after a wave of LGBTQ+ media has been censored by libraries in the country.

Lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday (3 May) which, if implemented, would impose sanctions on public library boards that ban books.

Proposed by secretary of state Alexi Giannoulias, the law will rescind public funding to boards that choose to censor books due to their “origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.”

Democratic governor J.B Pritzker told press during a news conference following the Senate’s vote that he supported the bill and was intending to sign it in the coming days.

“This landmark legislation is a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment rights and, most importantly, a great victory for future generations to come.”

The final Senate vote, which ended in a 39-19 win for those in favour of the bill on Wednesday, was split between Democrats and Republicans.

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Democratic senator Laura Murphy lauded the bill as a step in the right direction, saying librarians “deserve our respect.”

“Our nation’s libraries have been under attack for too long – they are bastions of knowledge and proliferate the spread of ideals,” Murphy said. “Librarians are trained professionals, and we need to trust that they will stock our libraries with appropriate materials.”

Republicans angry at ‘extreme ideology’

Republican senator Jason Plummer said in a statement that he believed the bill to be an attempt by Illinois Democrats to “force their extreme ideology on communities across this state.”

Libraries eligible for state funding must either adopt policy from the American Library Association, which prohibits book removal on the basis of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” or create a modified policy prohibiting book bans.

Book bans have become an increasingly dire issue across states implementing anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

Library boards in red states routinely opt to ban certain books, many of which are either pro-LGBTQ+ or advocate for progressive ideals, from being accessed by under-18s.

But following pushback by activists who say that censoring books on the basis of partisan viewpoints is dangerous.

A 100-year-old Julie Marshall – a grandmother who lost her husband in World War II – condemned Florida’s book ban in a speech at the Martin County School Board in March.

“Banning books and burning books are the same,” she said.

“Both are done for the same reason – fear of knowledge. Fear is not freedom, fear is not liberty. Fear is control. My husband died as a father of freedom.

“I am a mother of liberty. Banned books need to be proudly displayed and protected from school boards like this. Thank you very much.”

Additionally, a national survey of US voters by Fox News found that a huge percentage of the US votership thinks book banning is an incredibly serious issue.

A collective 87 per cent of those surveyed in the poll viewed book bans either as a minor or major issue in the US, with 60 per cent saying it was one of the more significant problems.