Kentucky Republicans clash on statehouse floor over making book ban even more restrictive
The book "Gender Queer," by Maia Kobabe, seen here at the Lincoln Belmont branch of the Chicago Public Library, was banned by seven St. Louis- area school districts. - Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS

A pair of Kentucky Republican legislators clashed on the statehouse floor over just how restrictive to make their anti-LGBTQ bill.

Senate Bill 5, which Republicans say would protect children from the graphic novel “Genderqueer: A Memoir" and other materials they consider to be pornographic, came onto the House floor Wednesday evening, but state Rep. Josh Calloway (R-Irvington) delayed the vote with a half-hour speech calling for a ban on public drag shows and other last-minute amendments, reported Kentucky Lantern.

“We cannot let those things that are happening across our state continue," Calloway said. "If we let them continue, you understand that we will get a point of no return. When it comes to the minds and the hearts of our pupils, they’re going to be our next leaders."

His first attempt to add amendments was ruled out of order because it was "way beyond the scope of the title of this bill," and state Rep. Russell Webber (R-Sheperdsville) reacted angrily once Calloway's amendments were brought to a vote, saying the added language could sink the bill at the last minute.

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“If we start adding things to a bill late in a session we run the risk of leaving the 2023 session with nothing — absolutely nothing accomplished,” Webber said, shouting.

Calloway insisted Republicans had the votes to “to pass a meaningful and as strong of a parent’s protection and child protection bill as we want to pass," but ultimately his floor amendments failed to get enough votes to suspend House rules to consider them because they had been filed less than 24 hours before the full House vote.

“You may hear that this is a book ban," Webber said. "This is not a book banning bill. This is a bill that is designed to give parents an opportunity to voice their concerns and to protect their children."

The Senate bill finally passed by a 80-18 party-line vote, and would ban materials deemed to be "harmful to minors," which the legislation defines as the "obscene" exposure of nude bodies or the depiction of sex acts, an appeal to "prurient interest in sex" or "patently offensive," but state Rep. Lisa Willner (D-Louisville) warned the measure would create “enormously time-consuming” work for school officials.

“I hear the assurances from the sponsor that this isn’t a book banning bill. I’ll tell you that there are a lot of voters in District 35 that think that’s exactly what this bill is,” said Willner, a former Jefferson County Public Schools board member. “It gives me some heartburn from that perspective that we’re, you know, heading down the slippery slope.”

State Rep. Josie Raymond (D-Louisville) agreed, saying the bill's wording was far too vague and would lead to chaos.

“It’s hard to define what’s patently offensive to prevailing standards, since it varies wildly county to county, neighborhood to neighborhood, household to household,” Raymond said. “This bill invites select parents to waste the time of principals, the money of school boards and to endanger the reputation of school board members.”