Banning book featuring same-sex parents violates human rights

The recent move by a NSW council to ban books featuring same-sex couples represents an
ongoing attack on the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community. This is deeply troubling to Liberty
Victoria. It follows a disturbing trend both in Australia and around the globe. This trend
includes the cancellation of ‘drag queen story time’ from public spaces in Victoria, in some
cases following threats and intimidation.

Banning books on same-sex parenting is problematic for several reasons.
First, the right to liberty and security, which involves being able to feel safe in the community,
is a fundamental human right. It is arguably a primary responsibility, and certainly a moral
obligation, of any local government council to promote and protect this right. Sadly, the
decision of a NSW council to bans books featuring same-sex parents from a public library
has the real potential — if not certainty — to make people with the LGBTIQ+ community feel
unwelcome and unsafe.

Second, book censorship has historically been used to oppress freedom of expression and
limit the public’s ability to educate itself on topics which promote dialogue around civil
liberties and human rights. This practice stunts progress, sows fear and division, and
silences stories of minority groups.

A local government council should not be permitted to ban the Bible, Koran, Torah or other
religious text from a public library on the basis they might offend the religious or political
beliefs of an individual councillor (or councillors). Equally, a council should not be permitted
to ban books aimed at teaching children about same-sex families in an age-appropriate

Third, book bans also ignore the reality that some children are lovingly raised and nurtured
by same-sex parents and carers. Indeed, many children are raised outside the ‘nuclear
family structure’ such as by single parents, grandparents, extended family members and
foster carers — some of whom may belong to the LGBTIQ+ community.

The right to protection of families and children extends to all families and children — not just
those that fit within one version of a traditional family mould. Denying children access to
literature which affirms their unique family structure can be harmful to their development and
sense of belonging in the community. The importance of all children seeing themselves in
literature — and society more broadly — cannot be overstated.

Finally, enabling other children to see such literature helps broaden their perspectives and
learn about the world they live in. Improving tolerance and understanding advances the right
to equality without discrimination.

Fundamentally, banning books featuring same-sex parents, and other similarly
discriminatory acts, is antithetical to a democratic society which values and accepts people
from diverse backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and life experiences. These dangerous acts
legitimise bigoted views within the community and encourage their spread. They should be
condemned in the strongest of terms.

Therefore, Liberty Victoria encourages councils in Victoria not to follow the human-rights
limiting practice of banning books featuring same-sex parents.
Liberty Victoria also calls for the strengthening of current laws, which arguably provide
insufficient protection against such violations to human rights, to ensure these sorts of
attacks do not continue.