No charges for Wyoming librarians over sex ed, LGBTQ books

National News

A shirt makes a political statement in a storefront in Gillette, Wyo. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. Prosecutors said they were considering possible criminal charges against Campbell County Public Library officials after some locals complained to police that books about sex and how to have a baby were in the children’s and teenage sections. (AP Photo/Mead Gruver)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A prosecutor won’t charge library employees for making sex education and LGBTQ-themed books available to young people in a deeply conservative city in Wyoming coal-mining country, saying he wouldn’t have a case.

The three books in the teenager section and one in the children’s section are among dozens contested at the library in Gillette in recent weeks. Library officials have been reviewing the complaints.

One couple went further, bringing five books to the attention of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in September. Sheriff’s officials referred the matter to county prosecutors, who asked a prosecutor in a neighboring county to handle the matter to avoid a potential conflict of interest with fellow county officials at the library.

The books are “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “How Do You Make a Baby” by Anna Fiske, “Doing It” by Hannah Witton, “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg, and “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew P. Smiler.

Four of the books aren’t obscene and having them in the library youth sections isn’t engaging in “sexual intrusion” under Wyoming laws that conceivably could apply, Weston County Attorney Michael Stulken wrote Wednesday to Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny.

“I cannot ethically bring criminal charges if the facts surrounding a certain matter are not supported by probable cause,” Stulken wrote.

Stulken didn’t review “This Book is Gay” because he didn’t get a copy, he wrote. The library board voted Monday to uphold a decision by library staff that moving “This Book is Gay” out of the teen section would be censorship, the Gillette News Record reported.

Stulken’s opinion appeared to be thoroughly researched, the library’s executive director, Terri Lesley, said Thursday. “I’m happy to have this decision made so that we can move on,” Lesley said by email.

Hugh Bennett, who along with his wife, Susan, filed the complaint with the sheriff’s office, called the decision not to file charges disappointing.

“We had thought that they would see a problem with recruiting children for sexual activity when they’re not mature enough for that to be an issue in their lives, creating an issue where it should not be created,” Bennett told The Associated Press.

The couple still believe it’s wrong to use public money to keep such books in the library youth sections, Bennett said.

“I’m not intending to change my mind because of something a lawyer chooses to do or not do,” Bennett said.

Such complaints nonetheless pose a “real threat” to Wyoming’s LGBTQ community, said Sara Burlingame, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality.

“Welcome to Wyoming. We’re all opposed to all kinds of things. We don’t ask the government to act against our neighbors,” Burlingame said.

The book objections follow protests and threats last summer over a transgender magician planning to perform at the library, causing the magician to cancel.

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Follow Mead Gruver on Twitter at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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