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North Dakota bills take aim at 'sexually explicit books' at libraries and stores

A pair of bills being introduced by three North Dakota lawmakers, would make it a crime for libraries to offer what they deem sexually explicit books.

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The downtown Fargo Public Library.
Nick Broadway / WDAY News
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BISMARCK — Senate bill 2123 and House bill 1205 would make it a Class B misdemeanor for any business establishment where minors can go, to offer books with images showing nudity or partial nudity.

Both bills do not exclude public libraries from these restrictions, causing an uproar from the North Dakota Library Association.

Kerrianne Boetcher, president of the North Dakota Library Association, said these bills are so vague, it is tough to get a true grasp on how many books they could impact.

"(It's) a blatant attempt to censor materials," Boetcher described. "Communist countries do it. We're in America, we have a freedom of democracy. We have the freedom to make these choices."

There is concern over how this would impact books about LGBTQ+ topics and any novels with adult themes displayed on the cover. The House bill includes visual depictions of "gender identity" in its list of offenses, without any further clarity on what this means.

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"A violation of people's freedom to read which is a huge deal for libraries," Boetcher added. "People do have the right to choose whether or not they want to read something."

The House bill would have libraries develop a system that allows visitors to request sexually explicit books be removed.

Cody Schuler, a Fargo based advocacy manager with the ALCU, said this puts a burden on libraries. He believes these bills are part of a trend seen in politics nationwide.

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"(It's) a growing movement, I think, we're seeing across the country in our state where individuals in a political realm are bringing their own personal moral, philosophical and religious beliefs into the political arena and imposing them on individuals," Schuler explained.

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