North Dakota wants sexually explicit material out of libraries

North Dakota wants sexually explicit material out of libraries

North Dakota wants sexually explicit material out of libraries

Two separate bills that would prohibit public libraries from displaying “explicit sexual material” passed the Senate and House floors in North Dakota on Thursday after undergoing debate among lawmakers in each chamber.

Supporters said the bills would reduce children’s exposure to pornography, while opponents cllaimed it would limit children’s access to scientific and educational content on the human body.

The Senate bill would charge a person with a class B misdemeanor — punishable by up to 30 days of imprisonment and a fine of $1,500 — for willfully displaying “objectionable materials” in places that minors visit.

Objectionable materials would include content that shows or describes sexual activity, human genitals after puberty, sadomasochistic abuse and more. The bill would apply to schools and libraries but not to colleges, universities, museums or art galleries.

“This is not (a) burning-the-book bill, nor is it censorship. Why? Because we are dealing with minors,” Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal of Edinburg said in support of the bill. “Pornography presented to children is not free speech. ... This material is truly harmful to children."

Republican Sen. Kristin Roers of Fargo countered that the bill would prohibit what she read and saw in her anatomy book as a child. “I went to Catholic school, so we didn’t really have sex ed. The only way you learned anything was in anatomy class," Roers said.

After more than 30 minutes on the Senate floor, the bill passed with a 38-9 vote. It must still pass through the House and get signed by North Dakota's Republican Gov. Doug Burgum to become law.

The House bill, which has many similarities to the Senate bill, would also prohibit public libraries from carrying sexually explicit materials. But it would not charge people with misdemeanors, and it would require libraries to develop a policy and process for keeping prohibited materials out.

When the House bill was first introduced in January, it sought to also prohibit content on sexual and gender identity but that language was removed after pressure from LGBTQ groups.

The House bill passed with a 65-28 vote. It must also survive the legislative process in the Senate and gain a signature from the governor to become law.

Efforts to protect minors from sexually explicit material in public and school libraries has gained momentum in several Republican states across the country.