RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) – Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee is currently withholding $110,000 from the Ridgeland Public Library because LGBTQ+ books can be found on the shelves.
“I think when we start putting our personal opinions into situations, that’s where we can go wrong,” Capital City Pride executive director Jason McCarty said.
A special meeting was called at the Ridgeland Public Library on Tuesday night to discuss an ultimatum Mayor Gene McGee gave the Madison County Library System — to get rid of LGBTQ+ literature or not receive 110 $000 in operating funds.
The Capital City Pride executive director said he was at the meeting and believes the mayor is threatening “safe spaces.”
“As executive director of Capitol City Pride, it is our duty to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people and I believe the library is a safe space. The library is a place where kids and teens and adults can go to escape the world and dive into a good book and learn new things,” McCarty said.
According to Madison County Library System executive director Tonya Johnson, the mayor received citizen complaints about 3 children’s books and one adult book that depicted members of the LGBTQ+ community or had titles that implicated the group.
And until the books are removed, the library would not receive the funds. A citizen of Ridgeland doesn’t believe it’s constitutional.
“This violates the constitutional right to free speech and is blatant censorship. It promotes discrimination, hatred and intolerance against the LGBTQ+ community,” said Maggie Bonds.
Bonds is a mother of two children. She said the books not only support LGBTQ+ members, but can help educate people who don’t identify with the books.
“I want girls to have books to represent them, to educate them about things they don’t understand, and to help me discuss difficult topics,” Bonds said.
McCarty said Mayor McGee needs to go through the process if he feels something shouldn’t be on the shelf.
“There is a procedure. If there’s a book you don’t like, you can go to the library, fill out a request. The review committee will read the book and decide if it should stay in the library. This mayor did none of that. And that’s not true,” McCarty said.
Mayor McGee emailed WLBT a statement confirming that his decision was made following complaints from Ridgeland citizens offended by the posting of material.
Johnson said that until the money is returned to the library, money from other areas such as employee benefits and equipment purchases will have to be drawn down to meet the needs of day-to-day operations.
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