Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark listens to public commenters during a city council meeting at the Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A panel of Huntington Beach community members will soon determine what books will go into the city’s libraries with the aim of keeping sexually inappropriate books out of the children’s section.
The resolution, passed by the council’s conservative majority Oct. 17, will create a 21-member panel of community members who will be given oversight of the books in the city’s five libraries. Each of the city council’s seven members will make three appointments each for the panel.
Under the new rule, city libraries will not allow children direct access to books or other materials that contain “any content of sexual nature.” It will require a parent or guardian’s consent to access such materials, and books with sexual content will be moved out of the children’s section.
Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark, who introduced the resolution, said she did so after community members raised concerns over books with alleged inappropriate sexual content in the children’s section of the city’s libraries.
“The whole goal is to make our libraries the safest place for our children,” she said during the meeting. “I’m simply asking ... to move books that are sexually explicit from the children’s section to the adult section.”
Many community members gathered to speak during public comment, stretching the meeting out for over five hours.
Those who supported the resolution said they are grateful for Ms. Van Der Mark and the council majority’s efforts to protect children from explicit material and for their effort to include the community.
“This is a right and wrong issue,” one resident said. “It’s wrong to allow our children to be exposed to [explicit content] in our libraries. Let’s just start our community to get back on the right path to protect our children.”
Those in opposition, however, likened the resolution to a “book ban.”
“The proposed resolution effectively calls for a process to ban books,” one resident said.
Huntington Beach Public Library in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 21, 2023. (Julianne Foster/The Epoch Times)
Additionally, a group of human rights advocacy groups—including The First Amendment Coalition, the ACLU of Southern California, and the Freedom to Read Foundation—wrote a letter
to the council claiming that the resolution was government overreach and violated free speech rights.
“While no one can be forced to read a library book to which they object, no one has the right to subject, through force of government, the entire community to their narrow and arbitrary view of what books are acceptable for minors of any age to read,” the groups said in the Oct. 17 letter.
The panel is a result of a proposal
introduced by Ms. Van Der Mark in June that directed city staff to come up with several different methods for screening library books and present them to the board in the fall.
At that June meeting, Ms. Van Der Mark also displayed a slideshow
with several examples of what she said are inappropriate books from the children’s and teens’ section in the city’s libraries.
One, aimed at children ages 3–6, called Granddad’s Pride
, shows a young child at a Pride parade with his grandfather, where two men in harnesses fondle each other in public.
Another book called Gender Queer
—a graphic illustrated memoir for grades 7–12, recounts the author’s exploration of sexuality from adolescence onward—and discusses and visually depicts characters dealing with gender dysphoria, masturbation, sex toys, and sex acts.
One scene in that book, censored by Ms. Van Der Mark, illustrates full nudity as characters engage in oral sex.
Another book, called The V Word
, describes female-on-female oral sex and sex acts in explicit detail, while the book “S.E.X.
,” describes and illustrates what Ms. Van Der Mark said were disturbing sex acts.