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Sen. John KennedyU.S. Senate

WARNING: This report concerns pornographic material currently available in Illinois public school libraries. Reader discretion is advised.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana grilled Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias on Capitol Hill Tuesday over the state forcing communities to tolerate pornographic books in public libraries, highlighting lurid details to which Illinois law forces children to have unfettered access.

Signed in June by Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois’s HB 2789 declares it “the policy of the State to encourage and protect the freedom of libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials.” It requires library systems to abide by American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which recognizes no age-based limits to content access, to be eligible for state grants.

During a U.S. Senate hearing on HB 2789 Tuesday, Kennedy read to Giannoulias passages from two of the books at issue: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, which features a graphically described sex scene between two young male cousins, and Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, which includes graphic depictions of sexual relations between a man and a boy. 

A transcript of the pornographic passages and video of Kennedy reading them can be found at RealClearPolitics [warning: graphic content].

“Now, Mr. Secretary what are you asking us to do?” Kennedy asked. “Are you suggesting that only librarians should decide whether the two books I just referenced should be available to kids? Is that what you’re saying? Tell me what you’re saying.”

“First of all, with all due respect, senator, the words you spoke are disturbing, especially coming out of your mouth, is very disturbing,” Giannoulias responded. “But I will also tell you that we’re not advocating for kids to read porn […] We are advocating for parents, random parents, not to have the ability under the guise of keeping kids safe to try and challenge the worldview of every single manner on this issue.”

“You’re getting conceptual again,” Kennedy followed up. “Because I want to know what you’re recommending. It sounds to me like some of you are saying the librarians should decide who gets to see that book.”

“I’m saying when individual parents are allowed to make that decision of where that line is then To Kill A Mockingbird, which involves a rape scene, should that book be pulled from our libraries?” the secretary said. “I think it becomes a slippery slope.”

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s seminal 1960 novel about racism in the American South, has been the subject of controversy and bans over the years due in part to its use of racial slurs and the central plot point of a rape accusation, which modern liberals often attempt to equate with objections to explicit pro-LGBT books. But while (as Kennedy demonstrated), the likes of Gender Queer feature pornographic focus on the details of the acts themselves, Mockingbird is about the concept of rape as a serious crime, discussed in the context of a trial. Focus on the Family’s review of the book describes its accounts of the rape itself as “fairly tame.”

Not the Bee’s Harris Rigby noted that “Lefties are, for some reason, dunking on Kennedy, saying he’s totally out of his mind for reading this in front of the Senate in DC,” which was the purpose of doing so. “Oh, it’s very uncomfortable hearing those words from a senator? Then why are you allowing KIDS TO READ THEM?”

Defenders of keeping such books accessible to children have proved particularly averse to highlighting their content in public settings, from restricting parents from reading their passages at school board meetings to a local TV station cutting away from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when he presented quotes from the books during a press conference.

Across the nation, controversy has exploded in recent years over schools and libraries adopting books that attempt to expose sexual themes and activity to children, often in graphic detail and with pornographic imagery depicting specific sex acts, as well as to instill in children acceptance of homosexuality and belief that gender is a malleable social construct.

The issue, along with the promotion of ideological messages in taxpayer-funded education, has fueled a parent backlash that has been credited with Republican gains in states like Florida and Virginia, whose current respective governors, DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, have taken leading roles in fighting back.