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Sydney council reverses same-sex parenting book ban

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Cumberland City Council in Western Sydney has overturned a book ban on same-sex parenting following public outrage.
Same-sex book ban has been reversed at a Sydney Council.

A council in Western Sydney has reversed a ban on books about same-sex parenting in its public libraries.

It comes after Cumberland City Council voted to pass the ban earlier this month, sparking public outrage and criticism from the State Government.

Following a four-hour debate on Wednesday night, councillors voted to overturn the ban.

Here’s the latest.

Cumberland

Cumberland is the local city council for around 240,000 residents of Western Sydney.

The council’s suburbs include Granville and Regents Park.

Two-thirds of the community speaks a language other than English at home, with a total of 67 languages spoken across Cumberland.

Same-sex book ban

On 1 May, the council voted to ban books and materials on same-sex parenting at eight local libraries.

The move was led by local councillor Steve Christou, who said some “distraught” parents had contacted him after finding a book called ‘Same-Sex Parents’ by Holly Duhig in the children’s section of a local library.

The ban passed in a 6-5 vote, with some councillors absent. Labor councillor Diane Colman likened the ban to “book burning”.

Controversy

LBGTQ+ community advocates voiced their opposition to the ban in the days after it passed.

Cumberland resident Caroline Staples – who describes herself as a “proud grandmother to a rainbow family” – launched a petition demanding the council reverse the ban.

National LGBTQ+ group Equality Australia said more than 50,000 people signed Staples’ petition, including at least 2,000 Cumberland locals.

Reversal

Four Labor councillors put forward a motion to reverse the book ban.

One of the councillors, Kun Huang, said: “No one should be discriminated against based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation.

“No family should be discriminated against based on their family composition. No child should be made to feel they do not belong.”

As a result, the reversal was agreed to in a 12-2 vote this week.

State Government

For the 2023/24 financial year, the State Government allocated the council’s libraries more than $740,000 in funding.

In a statement to TDA before the ban was reversed, NSW Arts Minister John Graham said he was planning to withdraw some of this funding.

Graham said “it should not be up to local councillors” to make choices on behalf of residents about what they can access at the library”.

Protests

There were more than 500 protestors outside the council’s offices during last night’s vote.

This included members of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group ‘Pride in Protest’, and protesters who defended the ban.

Police also confirmed to TDA that nobody was arrested outside the council building. However, one protester was later charged for allegedly assaulting a staff member at a nearby hotel.

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