Missouri bill introduced to ban 'age-inappropriate' Drag Queen Story Hour in state public libraries

'Miss Kitty Litter' reading to children at a 'Drag Queen Story Hour' in the Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas.
"Miss Kitty Litter" reading to children at a "Drag Queen Story Hour" in the Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas. | Courtesy of Mass Resistance

A bill has been introduced in the Missouri state legislature to restrict drag performers from reading to small children at libraries, a phenomenon that has upset parents nationwide.

Called the "Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act," the legislation is aimed at libraries that display "age-inappropriate material" and proposes losing state funding and penalizing librarians with fines or jail time, according to the Kansas City Star. The bill's sponsor in the Missouri state house is Rep. Ben Baker, a Republican from Neosho, in the southwestern region of the Show Me state.

“In some places — St. Louis, Kansas City and I think St. (Joseph) — they’ve had these drag queen story hours and that’s something that I take objection to and I think a lot of parents do,” Baker said.

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"That’s where in a public space, our kids could be exposed to something that’s age-inappropriate. That’s what I’m trying to tackle.”

Baker's bill does not apply to books.

“If we were trying to ban books or censor literature, I would kill the bill, myself,” he said.

Librarians who refuse to remove age-inappropriate content could be convicted of a class B misdemeanor and be required to pay a $500 fine and be sentenced up to a year in jail.

Thus far, the Kansas City Public Library has never formally hosted a Drag Queen Story Hour though such events have been held in area museums and theaters.

Around the country, protests have sprung up as libraries have opened their doors to drag performers. Parents and local activists have argued that drag is both misogynist and sexually explicit content that endangers children.

Most infamously, The Houston Public Library apologized for not performing background checks as was required in their own internal policies, when it was discovered that one of the drag queens that was invited to read to children was a convicted sex offender who had committed crimes against children.

Drag Queen Story Hour began in 2015 in San Francisco and such story times soon spread to other cities. DQSH maintains it exists to provide children with positive examples of "queer role models."

The Missouri Library Association has come out against the bill, calling it "censorship.”

As presently written, the proposed bill is not expected to be passed during the current legislative session.

Crosby Kemper III, who will soon be the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a position he was appointed to by President Donald Trump, noted that drag queen story times have become a national issue and will begin his new job at the federal agency next week.

“One thing I’ve said to other librarians are libraries are pretty good about understanding their communities,” Kemper told the Kansas City outlet.

Kemper is the outgoing executive director of the Kansas City Public Library.

“I think there are communities where doing a drag queen story time is throwing something in people’s faces, a deliberate provocation,” he added.

Meanwhile, the American Library Association has been actively promoting drag performers reading to children and other LGBT-oriented themes.

In June, The Federalist reported that at its 2019 national conference, attended by over 21,000 people, the ALA put on workshops that included "Creating Queer-Inclusive Elementary School Library Programming” and “Telling Stories, Expanding Boundaries: Drag Queen Storytimes in Libraries.” The latter featured Michelle Tea, a lesbian who started drag queen events at a public library in San Francisco.

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