Mississippi city library says mayor is withholding $110,000 in funding until it purges LGBTQ+ books

A collage of two book covers side by side, featuring "The Queer Bible" and "Grandad's Camper"
Mayor McGee objected to "The Queer Bible" and "Grandad's Camper," among other titles, per a local report.Jack Guinness/HarperCollins / Harry Woodgate/Simon & Schuster
  • A Mississippi library was told to remove LGBTQ+ books or lose $110,000, a local report said.

  • Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee withheld the cash over his "Christian" beliefs, per the library director.

  • Library officials have challenged the instruction, saying McGee isn't allowed to deny it funding.

A library in Mississippi said it has been told to remove LGBTQ+ books in order to receive its next chunk of $110,000 funding, according to the Mississippi Free Press.

Tonja Johnson, director of the Madison County Library System, told the paper that the ultimatum came from City of Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee, who cited his Christian faith.

"He explained his opposition to what he called 'homosexual materials' in the library, that it went against his Christian beliefs, and that he would not release the money as the long as the materials were there," Johnson told the paper.

Johnson said she told McGee: "I explained that we are a public library and we serve the entire community. I told him our collection reflects the diversity of our community.

"He told me that the library can serve whoever we wanted, but that he only serves the great Lord above," she is reported to have said.

When approached by Insider, McGee said: "I am responding to citizens' complaints about this material being displayed at the library. A number of people have complained."

He did not address Insider's questions about his conversation with Johnson, or about whether he is empowered to withhold the funding.

He did not attend a library board meeting on Tuesday, at which board members resolved to challenge McGee's ultimatum with the city aldermen.

Among the books that McGee objected to were both adult and children's titles, Johnson told the paper. Some books have strong LGBTQ+ themes while others have only characters who are incidentally LGTBQ+, she said.

She said they include "The Queer Bible," a collections of essays about queer cultural icons such as Susan Sontag, David Bowie, and RuPaul; and a children's book called "Grandad's Camper," in which a grandfather who had a same-sex relationship is a central character.

Bob Sanders, the library board's counsel, said that McGee does not have the legal authority to withhold the funding, per the Free Press.

It came after several informal objections from members of the public, who did not follow up by using the library's formal complaint system, Johnson told the paper.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, McGee has been mayor of Ridgeland since 1989.

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