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ACLU report reveals surge in LGBTQ+ book ban attempts in Michigan

The photo shows a library with a lot of books on shelves. The shelves are made of dark wood, and the books are arranged in a variety of colors and patterns. There are some books that are stacked high, and others that are spread out more evenly.
Scott Pohl
In the last couple of years, school districts and public libraries across the state have faced increasing pressure from some communities to censor certain books.

In 2023, there was a national surge of over 65% in attempts to limit access to books in school and public libraries compared to the previous year, as reported by data from the American Library Association.

Michigan mirrors this national trend — to date, there have been 29 cases of LGBTQ+ censorship targeting public schools and libraries in the state, according to reporting from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Over half of the incidents have resulted in successful bans.

"What this is is efforts at censorship. It's efforts to try to take away the acknowledgment of groups of people, their existence, their right to be accorded dignity and fairness," stated Jay Kaplan, attorney for the LGBTQ project at the ACLU of Michigan.

Most of the censorship attempts involve books featuring LGBTQ+ characters or situations that are not pornographic or sexually explicit in nature.

"I think sometimes the proponents of these book banning efforts they stretch way beyond what is actually considered materials that could be subject to censorship," Kaplan added.

The ACLU has begun tracking these censorship attempts on the ACLU website.Most of the censorship attempts have occurred on the western and eastern parts of the Lower Peninsula, with a few cases occurring in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the map, the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and the New York Times bestselling book All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson are among those being censored in Michigan, as well as Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye.

Currently, the map only tracks censorship incidents that have resulted in a formal review process and a final decision.

Kaplan calls the bans a threat to First Amendment rights in the state.

"At this point in time, what we've seen are these efforts at the local level to try to erase recognizing and acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people in schools," Kaplan said.

Many of these successful censorship bans have resulted from decisions made by public school boards, according to the ACLU.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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