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Is ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’ Illegal Under Michigan Law? Lapeer County Prosecutor Says It Could Be

Hundreds attend library board meeting to defend free speech

By |2023-03-27T14:47:55-04:00March 21st, 2023|Michigan, News|

It’s the latest brouhaha over a book. Conservative Lapeer County Prosecutor John Miller claims he’s considering taking legal action if a local librarian, Amy Churchill, does not take the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir” off shelves. Churchill says that’s a no go. And hundreds of parents who came to a library board meeting on March 16 appeared to be on Churchill’s side.

“’Gender Queer’ is not a salacious sex story,” said one attendee, according to ClickOnDetroit. “It is not ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ a book any American teenager can find and read.”

And “Fifty Shades” is by far not the only book on the shelves that might provoke Miller’s puritanical beliefs. He better not start poking around in the classics section.

“Parts of Shakespeare depict sex acts,” said Attorney Angie Martell of the Iglesia Martell Law Firm in Ann Arbor, talking to Pride Source about the possible legal implications of the matter. “We don’t ban LGBTQ+ books, or other books, that are thought to be salacious.”

So if Miller is not bothered by the sex in the above titles, could it be that his definition of dirty books are simply queer books?

“I do not advocate banning books that involve LGBTQ content,” said Miller at the meeting. “That is not my position.”

You might say his position is bottom feeder, though. He lurks beneath the waters of fairness and feasts on the vulnerable, such as queer and, in particular, trans and non-binary youth. That’s the intended audience for the book. And by many indications, the book has been informative and transformative for many.

“Gender Queer,” in which author Maia Kobabe writes about identifying as non-binary and asexual, was requested by a patron of the library. The critically acclaimed book has remained checked out since the library received it; other patrons are on a waiting list for a chance to check it out next. 

But if Miller had his way, the names on the list might be fined for public indecency or some other frivolous charge, in the same fashion he’s planning action against “Gender Queer” remaining on the shelves. “I want our citizens of our county to understand that we have child protection laws in the state of Michigan,” Miller told WDIV Channel 4. “Laws are already on the books, and this material, this book, in my opinion, meets some of the criteria for sexually exploitive materials.” The law, MCL750.145A, carries with it a penalty of up to four years in prison.

Miller is not the first person to make such a claim. Activists like Stephanie Butler and divisive groups like the Moms 4 Liberty have been making much ado about nothing for months, trying to get “Gender Queer” and other LGBTQ-related titles banned from the Dearborn schools’ libraries and other school libraries as well. They’ve had some success. The Dearborn School Board removed two books back in November. Several other titles remain under review. But on the bright side, Butler lost her write-in bid — she garnered less than four percent of the vote — to win a seat on the school board last fall. Meanwhile, two incumbents were reelected. 

Elsewhere across the state, these efforts have produced lackluster results. Tudor Dixon, who made parental rights a hallmark of her campaign, was trounced by Whitmer in the election.

And speaking of elections, Moms 4 Liberty members have been trying to install pro-parental rights candidates onto school boards across Michigan. Less than half of the 72 candidates they endorsed won, according to reporting from Bridge Michigan. But the Stepford Moms are still busy bullying queer youth and attempting to ban books that could be helpful to them.

“This is the first time a Michigan prosecutor has made this kind of threat,” said Martell. “The First Amendment makes very broad protections for authors who write books that make people uncomfortable. Threatening the librarian with criminal charges is really dangerous and outrageous.” 

“It’s really going back to a Nazi type of mentality,” she went on. “‘Let’s ban books. Let’s burn books.’”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael is senior staff writer for Between The Lines and the Pride Source Media Group. He has been writing for the paper since 1999. Jason is also an Essence bestselling author. He may be reached at [email protected].
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