Idaho bill to ban books that feature ‘homosexual acts’ – such as holding hands

A row of books on a shelf

Politicians in Idaho have approved a ban which could target books that feature LGBTQ+ people kissing and holding hands.

On Monday (15 January), the Idaho Committee on State Affairs met to discuss House Bill 384. 

The bill, which was voted to be sent to the House floor, is a tweaked version of last year’s House Bill 314, which was ultimately vetoed by the Republican governor, Brad Little.

In response to the veto, a proposed fine mentioned in the legislation has been reduced from $2,500 (close to £2,000) to just $250 (£198). 

When HB314 was first tabled, the Human Rights Campaign labelled it the “latest salvo by extremist politicians who want to prevent equitable access to library services, by banning so-called ‘obscene’ books and materials”. 

The latest version of the bill aims to prevent school and public libraries giving or making available any materials to minors that “depict nudity, sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse and that is harmful to minors,” and “that depict “sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse that, taken as a whole, is harmful to minors”.

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‘Grooming books’

In an ambiguous passage, the bill also seeks to prohibit “any other material harmful to minors”, which was what caused Little to act in 2023, leading to two hours of debate on Monday. 

The passage could ban books that contain gay characters, which would be seen as automatically sexually explicit. The bill’s definition of “sexual conduct” includes “homosexuality”. 

Republican representative Julianne Young claimed that the proposed law wouldn’t ban gay characters, but “acts” of homosexuality, which could extend to characters simply holding hands.

The hearing was told that the bill was needed to prevent minors reading about “two men kissing”, and LGBTQ-inclusive works were referred to as “grooming books”.

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