Western Sydney Council Reverses Controversial Book Ban After Heated Debate

A Sydney council’s controversial library ban on a children’s book about same-sex parents was overturned after hours of fiery debate.  Cumberland City Council faced national and global headlines and outrage from across the political spectrum for banning Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig from libraries across the council area. The book is part of a series depicting diverse family structures for a younger audience. It features two men and a child on the front cover. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Merrylands council chambers, along with dozens of police officers and council security, as councilors gathered to debate a motion to reverse the ban. Several people were ejected from the chambers for disruptive behaviour as Mayor Lisa Lake attempted to keep the meeting under control. After four hours of debate and numerous failed attempts at amendments, the original vote to ban the book was reversed. Councilors voted for a motion to reinstate the book into its library collections, but to move it from the children’s section to the junior non-fiction section in line with Australian library guidelines.

That motion, put forward by Labor’s Kun Huang, was passed 12-2 just before 10.45pm. One councilor, Joseph Rahme, was absent. The final vote saw several changes. In the final hour, Councilor Steve Christou was abandoned by his own party colleagues Paul Garrard and Helen Hughes, who voted in favour of the motion. The only councilor to support Christou was Eddy Sarkis, who left Christou’s Our Local Community party in February after it failed to select him for preselection. Speaking outside the meeting after the vote, Christou said he was “disappointed by some colleagues that held a firm position and … with pressure put on by the media, that they changed their position”. Labor Councilor Mohamad Hussein, who had voted for the original ban, changed his vote at the last minute to support the reversal and the book’s reallocation to the junior non-fiction section. Christou had earlier moved an amendment to move the book to the adult section of the library. It was one of several failed amendments that saw the section of the meeting dedicated to the book stretch beyond four hours.

Earlier, more than 200 protesters had clashed as they chanted and yelled outside the council chambers amid a heavy police presence. The crowd included members of the left-wing Pride in Protest activist group, as well as older local men who opposed reversing the ban. Inside the meeting, councilors traded insults, members of the community made impassioned pleas for the council to dump the ban, and rowdy spectators in the public gallery were repeatedly urged to keep quiet as Lake, the mayor, was forced to eject several people. During an at-times chaotic meeting, Lake repeatedly warned councilors, members of the public who were making submissions, and spectators to keep discourse civil as she extended the meeting beyond its original 10pm deadline.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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