Above: Protesters outside Hood County Commissioners Court before a public hearing on LGBT-themed children's books.
Hood County has made national headlines by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but marriage equality isn’t the only LGBT issue rankling some folks in this rural community 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
During a standing-room-only county Commissioners’ Court meeting on Tuesday, residents voiced objections to the presence of two LGBT-themed children’s books in the county library: This Day in June, which depicts a pride parade, and My Princess Boy, about a boy who wears dresses.
Granbury resident Dave Eagle said the books are about “transvestic behavior” and “program children with the LGBT agenda.” Eagle wants them moved from the children’s section of the library to the adult section.
“This is information that hits a child’s eyes and goes into their brains before they have a chance to make a decision about it,” Eagle said. “As adults we have a duty to protect children’s innocence.”
More than a dozen other residents objected to the books, often invoking Christianity, but Library Director Courtney Kincaid says the books deserve a place in the library.
“They’re very sweet books about acceptance, tolerance and anti-bullying.” Kincaid said. “We do have gays and lesbians in the community, and they have every right to have items in the collection.”
About half of the citizens who spoke were against removing the books.
“I oppose any attempt at censorship,” said Hood County resident Mickey Shearon, “not in spite of my Christian beliefs, but because of them.”
The two books have been the targets of controversy since more than 50 people submitted complaints in early June.
After receiving the complaints, Kincaid sent them to the Hood County Library Advisory Board. Typically, public libraries in Texas are overseen by boards, composed of local residents who advise and advocate for libraries.
The advisory board held a public hearing to consider the book removal requests on June 8.
“Gay rights issues don’t play well in some places,” said David Wells, the 68-year-old chairman of the advisory board. “There is an older population here that doesn’t understand that same-sex relationships aren’t relegated to Austin or New York.”
Despite the anti-gay sentiment that persists in Hood County, the board voted unanimously to recommend keeping the books. Kincaid agreed—but decided to move This Day in June, a 32-page illustrated children’s book, to the library’s adult collection.
Even then, many conservative residents refused to give up the fight.
After Kincaid’s decision, Mel Birdwell, wife of tea party-backed state Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), sent an email to more than 70 people asking them to contact the county commissioners to voice their displeasure.
“We as Christians must begin to take a stand on these issues such as gay marriage and the indoctrination of LGBT acceptance in our children’s lives,” Birdwell wrote in the email.
Birdwell’s message prompted calls to the county commissioners, who scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday’s meeting.
In the end, the commissioners didn’t reverse Kincaid’s decision to keep the books.
“The county attorney gave us her opinion that if we required the books to be moved it would be a form of censorship and a violation of the law,” Commissioner Steve Berry said.
Despite the uproar over the books, Kincaid said she wants people to know that Hood County is not a “backwards place.”
“We actually do have a lot of tolerant people in the community who support freedom, freedom to choose what to read,” she said.