Mayor backs down after LGBT+ books row that forced libraries to rely on generous furries
A Mississippi library system will receive vital funding after a row with a city mayor over LGBT+ books.
In January, news broke that city of Ridgeland mayor Gene McGee refused to release $110,000 in previously approved funding to the Madison County Library System unless the libraries took LGBT+ books off the shelves.
Tonja Johnson, executive director for the Madison County Library System, was told by the mayor that he wouldn’t issue the payment as the libraries had books that “went against his Christian beliefs”. But Johnson stood firm and said the LGBT+ inclusive materials “reflect the diversity of our community”.
Now it would appear that the city of Ridgeland and the Madison County Library System have finally reached an accord, meaning the libraries will officially get their funding after months of back and forth.
The two sides released a joint statement in which they both said libraries should “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues”, the Associated Press reported.
“Our libraries are a repository of knowledge and culture, providing far more than access to books,” the statement continued.
The Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by both parties, also decreed that both parties in “no way wish to censor, proscribe or remove any materials and respect the library system’s duty to protect and serve the entire community”, according to WAPT.
According to the document, the funding that the mayor threatened to withhold will now be paid.
John Scanlon, an attorney who represented the city in the case, told WLBT that the city “doesn’t have any control” of the library’s contents or “what they display on shelves”.
“The new contract says nothing about the city controlling the contents of the library,” Scanlon added.
After waves of backlash, mayor McGee claimed that he made the ultimatum to the libraries in response to “complaints by citizens about the material being displayed in the library”. He also said that he believed some of the books in question were “inappropriate for children”.
Library director Johnson rebutted this, saying at the time that McGee had threatened not to release the money as long as “what he called ‘homosexual materials’” remained in the library.
She added the loss of the money would “definitely impact services” and could result in job losses if they were not able to “move funding from something else to keep those positions open”.
After a months-long stalemate over the funding, a local non-profit, Friends of Ridgeland Library, raised over $112,000 to help the library system out with the help, in part, from a perhaps unlikely source – the furry community.
Soatok, a member of the furry community, took to social media to call upon the furry community to help raise the much-needed cash.
He wrote on Twitter that the Ridgeland mayor was demanding the libraries “purge the shelves of LGBTQ+ books” and said the community should tell the mayor to “f**k off” by donating to the fundraiser.
Soak added the $110,000 wasn’t “small potatoes”, but he said it was well within the reach of the “amounts raised by furries for charities at conventions all the time”.
While the money raised by the fundraiser campaign was immensely helpful, workers within the library system said the $112,000 raised would only last until September, the Associated Press reported.
According to the outlet, the Ridgeland Board of Alderman approved the initial funding as part of the city budget last fall, and alderman Ken Heard clarified that the mayor didn’t have the authority to independently restrict the library funding.