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Ridgeland mayor withholds funds from library because of LGBTQ+ books on the shelves

Ridgeland mayor withholds funds from library because of LGBTQ+ books on the shelves
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 8:37 PM CST
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RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - The mayor of Ridgeland, Gene McGee, is currently withholding $110,000 from the Ridgeland Public Library because LGBTQ+ books can be found on the shelves.

“I think when we start putting our personal opinions into situations, that’s when we can go wrong,” Executive Director of Capital City Pride, Jason McCarty, said.

Tuesday night, a special meeting was called at the Ridgeland Public Library to discuss an ultimatum that Mayor Gene McGee gave the Madison County Library System - to either get rid of LGBTQ+ literature or not receive $110,000 worth of operational funds.

Executive Director of Capital City Pride said he was at the meeting and believes the mayor is threatening “safe spaces.”

“As the executive director of Capitol City Pride, it is our job to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people and I believe that the library is a safe space. The library is a place for kids and teens and adults can go to escape the world and dive into a great book and learn about new things,” McCarty said.

According to Executive Director for the Madison County Library System, Tonya Johnson, the Mayor received complaints from citizens about 3 children’s books and one adult book that depicted members of the LGBTQ+ community or had titles that involved the group.

And until books were removed, the library would not receive the funds. One Ridgeland citizen doesn’t believe it’s constitutional.

“It’s violating the constitutional right of free speech and it’s blatant censorship. It is promoting discrimination, hate and intolerance against the LGBTQ+ community,” Maggie Bonds said.

Bonds is a mother of two. She said the books not only support LGBTQ+ members, but can help educate people who don’t identify with the books.

“I want daughters to have books to represent them, to educate them about things they don’t understand and to help me discuss difficult subjects,” Bonds said.

McCarty said Mayor McGee needs to follow procedure if he feels something shouldn’t be on a shelf.

“There’s a procedure. If there’s a book that you don’t like, you can go into the library, fill out an application. The review board will read the book and decide if it should stay in the library. This mayor did none of those things. And that’s wrong,” McCarty said.

Mayor McGee emailed WLBT a statement confirming that his decision was made because of complaints from Ridgeland citizens who were offended by the display of material.

Johnson said until the money is given to the library, money from other areas such as employee benefits and material purchases will have to be taken to fill the needs of the daily operations.

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