‘Hub of bigots’: Protest over council gay book ban

Steve Christou on the controversial book ban

Source: X

Hundreds of people are expected to rally against a western Sydney council’s decision to ban books featuring same-sex parenting, a choice they say does not reflect the views of the community.

Cumberland City Council, which covers a population of about 240,000 people living near Parramatta, narrowly voted earlier in May to “take immediate action to rid same-sex parents books/materials in council’s library service”.

The ban put the council’s funding under threat and prompted the NSW body in charge of administering anti-discrimination laws to voice its “deep concern”.

Protesters will meet outside council chambers in Merrylands for the next meeting on Wednesday night.

Rally organisers want the council to rescind the ban and for NSW Premier Chris Minns to expel Labor councillors who supported it.

“We reject the idea that western Sydney is a hub of bigots who support these homophobic bans,” Pride in Protest spokeswoman Wei Thai-Haynes said on Tuesday.

“This is an attempt by the far right to force queer people out of public life, and NSW Labor are helping it happen.”

Thai-Haynes said books that depicted rainbow families, or drag performers reading stories, were “a normal part of life and not ‘indoctrination’ or ‘sexualising children'”.

Organisers also condemned Labor councillors that they said had “kowtowed to such bigotry, either by openly voting for it or by abstaining”.

The decision centres on five copies of the book A Focus On: Same Sex Parents that have been in the council’s libraries since 2019. It is part of a series that aims to inform children about “difficult realities” and “healthy ways for children to process and understand them”.

Also on Wednesday, Equality Australia said more than 50,000 people had signed petitions calling for the decision to be reversed.

In total, 40,861 people have so far signed the Equality Australia petition, including 2194 from within Cumberland postcodes. A further 10,065 have signed a petition,

“Western Sydney welcomes people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We don’t ban people or families and we won’t allow publicity-seeking politicians to play members of our community off against each other,” Cumberland resident Caroline Staples, who has led much of the fightback, said.

Anti-Discrimination NSW president Helen McKenzie said diversity should be represented in the books available to the community.

“For rainbow families living in the Cumberland council area, this is a hurtful and divisive act which impacts them and their children,” she said last week.

NSW Arts Minister John Graham said banning books was a bad sign for civilisations, adding local councillors should not engage in censorship.

“We are examining the consequences this decision may have for the council continuing to receive library funding from the NSW government,” he said.

The councillor who put forward the motion, former mayor Steve Christou, said the community wanted the book banned.

“I’m only representing the values of our community and what the majority of people are telling us … we’re not marginalising anyone here,” he said.

In a video posted to social media last week, Christou urged those who agreed with the ban to turn out to the council chambers on Wednesday.

“It’s very important that our community has a say in this matter. We’re a community of deep family and religious values,” he said.

“I do ask that we all remain peaceful but show our solidarity and force, so we can let people know that this is the wishes of the Cumberland City community.”

-with AAP

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