PRATTVILLE — The Prattville City Council voted down a resolution on Wednesday to limit sexually explicit books for children under 18.
The resolution was intended to allow Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie to "sign a contract for services with the Autauga Prattville-Autauga Public Library" because "the city desires to have sexually explicit materials in the library restricted to minors under the age of 18."
The details of the contract and its effects on library funding were not immediately revealed, but the stated purpose of the resolution was that "a contract for services is needed to administer and support the allocation of funds." Members who spoke said the resolution would require parental consent for a minor to check out a book classified as "sexually explicit." It was also suggested the proposed contract would limit the entire "adult fiction" section to those 18 and over, but no one on the council confirmed that.
For months, residents have attended the Autauga County Commission and Prattville City Council, often reading excerpts from the children's books with sexually explicit content.
In April, 1819 News reported on several mothers expressing concern with LGBTQ+ children's books in the Autauga-Prattville Public Library, available for any child to read at will.
The result was the formation of two groups opposed to the books, Clean Up Prattville and Clean Up Alabama. The former focuses on the Prattville library, while the latter addresses statewide library issues.
Several members of the public, both for and against the books' inclusion, spoke at the meeting, defending their respective sides. Most opposed to the books' inclusion spoke at length, bemoaning the proposed resolution as the inevitable demise of the library. Others supported the resolution, calling a commonsense approach akin to movie ratings. Others who opposed the books were indifferent to the resolution as a whole.
After a lengthy portion of public comment, council members spoke to explain voting for or against the resolution. By the end of it, the resolution failed with a vote of 3-4.
District 5 Councilman Blair Gornto spoke most fervently in support of the resolution, claiming it was not ridding the library of any books but rather allowed parents to decide what their children can read.
"There were several folks that got up and spoke about this contract for services being an attempt to defund the library," Gornto said. "I would disagree with that. I don't see this as defunding the library. I see this as our attempt to put the responsibility back in the parent's hands and protect our children's innocence."
District 1 Councilman Albert Strickland opposed the resolution, saying he didn't think the catch-all attempt would allow adequate nuance regarding who could access what materials.
Several times while Gornto and Gillespie were talking, audience members who opposed the books raised their voices, requiring admonishment from Council President Lora Lee Boone.
Boone spoke last in opposition to the resolution.
"Big government makes more rules, more laws, and limits people's choices," Boone said. "From the beginning of my tenure, I have looked at hard decisions and asked myself this, 'How does this affect the choices of the citizens?' In this case, more government regulation equals less choice for the citizens. First Amendment implications are at play here. And part of being American is allowing another American to yell at the top of his or her voice, or read to themselves, the very thing that most bothers me."
Gornto, District 3 Councilman John Chambers and District 4 Councilman Tommy Merrick voted in favor of the resolution. Boone, Strickland, District 2 Councilman Rusty Jackson and District 6 Councilman Robert Strichik were opposed.
After the vote, members from the council and the public made further comments.
Gornto quoted a recent letter from Gov. Kay Ivey to Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) director Nancy Pack, demanding answers for the statewide issue of sexually explicit children's books in Alabama libraries. Several lawmakers and Alabama politicos have sought to address the library issue at the state level, a point the Gornto acknowledged.
"I'm disappointed that Prattville will not be ahead of the decision that's coming down the pipe from higher up in the state," Gornto said. "I will leave that this doesn't stop with this body, as I know the silent majority are not going to drop this fight to protect our children."
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