Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signs first of its kind anti-book ban bill

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Monday, June 12, 2023
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signs anti-book ban legislation
Governor JB Pritzker signed historic legislation Monday that would ban libraries from banning books.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor JB Pritzker signed historic legislation Monday that would ban libraries from banning books.

The law is the first of its kind in the nation, and would cut off funding to any libraries that remove books currently on the shelf.

The law was pushed by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who is also the state's librarian, and is a response to the backlash in many local school districts against controversial books, particularly some championed by the LBGTQ community.

"Book bans are about censorship, marginalizing people, marginalizing ideas and facts. Regimes ban books, not democracies," Pritzker said.

According to the American Library Association, there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022, up from 41 attempts in 2021.

House Bill 2789 declares it to be the policy of Illinois to "encourage and protect the freedom of libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials."

It also requires that, as a condition for being eligible for state grants, libraries and library systems must adopt either the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights or some other written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials.

One of the books that frequently came under attack was "Gender Queer," a book which contains graphic sexual drawings. It was the source of vocal debates at numerous school districts in Northern Illinois, including in Downers Grove.

"They call us book banners, but we're not banning books. We want to ban pornographic books. Heterosexual or homosexual it doesn't belong in the school," said Terry Newsome, one parents who helped lead the charge against "Gender Queer" in Downers Grove.

But supporters said this is about allowing access to diverse voices and ideas, and First Amendment rights.

"Parents and only parents have the right and responsibility to restrict their children and only their children's access to library resources," said Secretary Giannoulias.

"Those pushing book banning say they are doing it to protect people. Well that's just not true. Book banning is most frequently used to silence the voices of the LGBTQ+ community as well as people of color," said State rep. Anne Stava Murray (D-Downers Grove).

Supporters of the new law said book bans at times have also targeted classics like "To Kill A Mockingbird," and restricting access is wrong if it's driven by ideologies. Opponents of the ban on bans accused the governor of pushing an agenda about politics, not democracy.

"We object to gender influencing, indoctrination of our kids toward anti-racism and leftist agendas. We're objecting to those things yet Governor Pritzker keeps taking more and more steps to extinguish parental rights," said Laura Hois, co-chair of the Awake Illinois Downers Grove chapter.

Last year the state gave out $62 million in grants to libraries across Illinois. Those that don't adhere to the standards set by the American Library Association for what's on their shelves would not be eligible for any money.

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report