Some of the big names of literature would have been pulled from library shelves. Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal are just a few of the authors whose work would have been banned from public school libraries simply because they either are written by gay authors or they present stories in which homosexuals play some role.
CBS News reports that Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen, who calls homosexuality “an unacceptable lifestyle,” proposed a new bill to prevent schools from offering such books. Allen originally included some of Shakespeare‘s works in his ban, but changed his mind after criticism.
Claiming that the homosexual lifestyle is bad for America, and getting frustrated from reading “book after book” that contains what he calls the “homosexual agenda,” Allen became “alarmed.”
Fortunately for literature, when it came time to vote for the bill in Alabama’s legislature, there weren’t enough lawmakers present for a vote to be taken, so the measure died automatically. (I suspect some lawmakers didn’t support the bill but didn’t want to go on record as having to vote “no” out of fear of offending their Republican constituents. Good for them.)
The sad thing here isn’t so much the fact that the target of such a ridiculous bill would be any story that contains a homosexual character, but that stories simply written by someone who happened to be homosexual would have been banned as well. What kind of thinking is this? Just because an author is gay does not automatically mean he will write only about gay characters. Sometimes heterosexual authors include gay characters in their work. Writers write about life experiences; the experiences need not be only what they themselves experience. The sexual orientation of the author of a work shouldn’t be a reason to ban the work itself. What’s next? A ban on all black authors’ works that display the “civil rights agenda?” Or perhaps those good old boys will knock their “womenfolk” back a peg or two and ban any work written by females who might push the “women’s lib agenda.”
Literature is supposed to make us think, experience the world through other people’s lives. Very often in the process of reading a good book, we learn something about ourselves whether there is the first character we fully identify with or not. Perhaps if our children could be exposed to more diversity through good literature, it might lead them to be a little more accepting of other people in this world.
To accept one person’s right to live their life their way in no way compromises your own values. Too often, people forget that.