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Book on Gay Marriage Contested at Brentwood Library Board Meeting

A resident's daughter brought the book home, and now he wants it removed from the library.

The Brentwood Public Library hasn’t had a book challenged in the seven years that Ellen Walther has been on the board, but a children’s book that touches on the subject of gay marriage is now under consideration to be removed.

Brentwood resident James Vandervoort’s daughter brought home the book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, without his knowledge, and now he wants it removed from the shelves. He met with the library board (though not a quorum) Monday, Oct. 15, to make his case.

"The purpose of the book is to help foster acceptance, and to glorify homosexual marriage," he said. "I think that’s a realistic synopsis of what the book is about."

Using gerbils as characters, a girl (gerbil) is upset because her favorite uncle is getting married, and she thinks she’ll lose him as a friend. Her uncle is marrying another male gerbil.

Vandervoort said the book advocates an illegal activity to children.

He said there could be many groups that advocate illegal activities, such as white supremacists groups, that would like to have books targeted for children to accept.

“If we say this is OK, would it be a jump to think that NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) in Brentwood or the region would say, ‘we think this is such a good idea, we would like to extend the joys of homosexual marriage to younger people.’”

Library Director Vicki Woods said that wasn’t likely, because a book advocating pedophilia doesn’t fit into the Brentwood Library’s mission.

Board member Brian Rothery said he thought the book is designed to give comfort to a child who’s confused about something involving a parent.

“Other than the fact that they’re both dressed in tuxedos, the names are androgynous, I don’t think it hits you over the head (that it’s a gay marriage),” Rothery said.

Vandervoort said the purpose of the book is clear.

“What light is Uncle Bobby portrayed in? That he’s a great guy and he’s getting married, and that’s not a bad thing,” Vandervoort said. “I think it’s hard to say this book is right down the middle neutral.”

Lynne DeVaughan said the purpose of a library is to encourage literacy, and there’s no right or wrong type of material to do that. She said what is legal or acceptable can change, and it’s up to the patron to determine what is acceptable for her household.

She also said the author wrote the book to be published everywhere, “and we have people who are gays and lesbians everywhere in this society, whether it’s legal or not.”

Board member Jackie Radovich said she knows several gays and lesbians, but can see Vandervoort’s point.

“They are beautiful people, but the marriage part – that’s not legal everywhere,” she said. “Just very small areas where it’s legal. That’s what bothers me.”

DeVaughan said she had a problem with removing the book because gay marriage is illegal in Missouri.

“How would we ever have a revolution, and changes in any kind of government system in society if we didn’t allow for other voices?” she said.

Vandervoort said, “We can get a revolution, or chaos, or anarchy by not following the rule of law.”

Woods ended the conversation, and told Vandervoort the board would vote on his request at the next board meeting.

Also in Patch:

Banned Books Week: Brentwood Library Book on Gay Marriage is Contested

Hugh West October 19, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Rejected by the voters of Missouri? Really? When did the voters of Missouri vote on gerbil marriage, homosexual or otherwise?
Hugh West October 19, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Illegal in our state? Again, I totally missed when we voted on gerbil marriage . . .
Steve October 19, 2012 at 11:43 AM
I believe Mr. Forster's point is that if you don't share his background and worldview, then it is okay to slander someone. True tolerance is when you show respect for people with different backgrounds and beliefs without placing labels on those you do not agree with.
Steve October 19, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Jennjenn, Most of the 70% stay quiet because they don't want to end up in a situation just like this. Their beliefs are as important to them as yours are to your. Doesn't it bother you just a little that throwing words like "bigotry" around might cause someone to feel uncomfortable enough not to express their beliefs. Or are you one of those people who believes it's okay to suppress debate by name-calling?
Jennjenn October 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I would prefer that people who want to live in the dark ages would stop trying to force other people to live by the rules they want to set for themselves. No one is trying to force you to marry a person of the same sex. If you don't like a book leave it in the library. This cause is about equality for other people. It's been fought and won in the past. The rights of minorities should not be left to popular vote because of ignorant bigots like yourself. If we left decisions like slavery and interracial marriage to the popular vote we never would have progressed.
Jennjenn October 19, 2012 at 01:51 PM
John Q won't be happy until the book and gay families are banned from the library. I wonder what he would tell his five year old if they spotted a same sex couple holding hands in public. Hopefully she has someone in her life who doesn't so freely spout hate equating homosexuality with pedophilia or beastiality. This little girl is going to get to a certain age and realize her father is a homophobe and she will either be ashamed or the ignorance will carry on for another generation. It's sad that people still teach their children to hate.
familyisnotanagenda October 19, 2012 at 02:05 PM
My family, and many other families with sex-sex partners, are not a political agenda. I am sickened by people who feel they are doing something good by spreading hate about families like mine. My partner and I are raising three incredible children together and it terrifies me that they might go to school or even to our area library and run into people who think like you and Mr. Vandervoort. YOU are the biggest danger to the emotional well-being of children in families like ours. YOU are the ones who can tear down our children by comparing their parents to child molesters and people who have sex with animals. It has nothing to do with me. Our children are all happy, well-rounded kids with two loving parents. We have three talented kids on the honor roll. One is leaving for university next year. They never batted an eye at having same-sex parents. Look at our country's very recent history of doing this very thing to inter-racial families. Please don't teach children to hate.
Becca Christensen October 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Jennjenn - Hear, hear! Couldn't have said it better myself!
Becca Christensen October 19, 2012 at 05:47 PM
John Q. Public - Gay marriage is not a complex social and political issue. People fall in love with and want to marry whoever their inborn sexuality dictates. This is a simple issue that bigots turn into an ugly mess. Also, I find it interesting that you put reason in quotes. It implies a sarcastic tone, as if reason shouldn't be involved in this debate.
Becca Christensen October 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I agree, Jonathan. Also of note, only the bigots and homophobes conflate pedophilia with homosexuality. Pedophilia is a sexual perversion, homosexuality is a legitimate expression of human sexuality. These are agreed upon facts by the American Psychological Association.
Lynne DeVaughan October 19, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Library board meetings are public but guests are rare. Mr. Miner attended the last 3 meetings for his own reasons. No one from the library asked him to attend. I also know the Vandervoorts; they are a wonderful family. I often see them at school events; it’s clear they are involved in their children’s lives. Mr. Vandervoort shouldn't be ridiculed for his beliefs. He has more guts than most of us by acting on those beliefs. We need to applaud not only his right to take a stand but his courage to do so. It is his right to request a book be removed! No one has the right to say another person’s opinion is wrong. The library board cancelled the Oct 8th meeting simply because we wouldn't have a quorum to bring this situation to a resolution. We thought we could on the 15th; we still didn’t have a quorum. Rather than postpone Mr. Vandervoort again, we met and listened to his case. I personally feel that, as a public institution serving all of the needs of the community, the library is obligated to present materials on all sorts of subjects. The library provides the materials for the public to use however they wish. Whenever we leave our homes, we do so knowing that we will encounter people and actions that do not agree with our own personal beliefs. It is up to us as individuals to educate our children in our values and help them navigate through the world that offers so many different and conflicting messages.
Hugh West October 20, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Lynne: You say, 'He has the right to request a book be removed,' and you also say, 'No one has the right to say another person's opinion is wrong.' I don't know if you realize these two sentences are mutually contradictory. By requesting a book to be removed, he IS saying other people's opinions are wrong: that the people who support and believe in same-sex marriage are wrong, and should not have their opinion represented in the collection. This is the sort of illogic that always results whenever we try to rationalize our own prejudices. There is simply to excuse for censorship, none.
Robin October 20, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Perhaps the guinea pigs (why were people thinking of gerbils?) live in Maryland...
RDBet October 20, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Nice family and all, but his actions are not courageous. Westboro Church members probably have some nice families, and their protests take something...but I would not call it courage. I would say Mr Vandervoort has courage if he admits his mistake and withdraws this request, and goes back to helping raise his own family instead of imposing his "morals" on others.
Lynne DeVaughan October 20, 2012 at 04:19 AM
I don't feel my statements are contradictory at all. He is entitled to his beliefs. Each of us are. That's a fundamental principle this country was built on. We, as a society, have problems interacting with one another when one person's belief is imposed upon someone else. That's when we look to the framework that governs our interaction to determine how to proceed. In this case, Mr. Vandervoort does believe same-sex marriage is wrong. He's entitled to hold that belief. In my opinion, he's not entitled to tell you or me how to live as a result of his belief. Regarding the book, the library director and/or the board ultimately are the ones to decide whether to uphold Mr. Vandervoort's opinion or deny it.
laurie white October 20, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I think the book should stay on the shelf. It sounds like a great teaching tool for young kids and I applaud the author for writing it and Brentwood library for carrying it. However, James had every right to ask for the book to be removed. In turn, the library has every right to deny the request. But please do not vilify this family. They were my neighbors for 7 years, until I moved out of state last year. They are loving parents to their children and great friends. I spent time with them nearly everyday of those 7 years. Our kids played together, we had many cups of coffee together and at times spent holidays together. My husband and I are very liberal. They know that. Sometimes we would talk about our differing beliefs and sometimes we agreed on things and sometimes we didn't. Never once did I feel judged. James morally objects to this book. That's fine. It's his right. I don't agree with it, but I promise you that if I walked into their house tomorrow, I would be greeted with open arms.
James Vandervoort October 20, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Laurie's right. We were sad to see them leave because we valued them as good neighbors and friends. Did we know we had differences of opinion on things? Yep. Did it matter? Nope. They are a good example of what true "liberals" are: Ones who are open to others of opposing views.
Karen Laseter October 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I also agree with Laurie and Lynne. I am one of those "Brentwood liberals" and feel strongly that this book should not be banned. Although I feel the book should remain in the library, I have to support James Vandervoort's right to request it be banned. That is the beauty of this country, and these rights need to be defended. The Vandervoort's are an amazing family, and I am proud to know them. This city seems to be torn apart lately. It's like things are getting stirred up way too much.
James Vandervoort October 21, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Since the local news media could scarcely be bothered to ask for my side of the story, I’m using this forum to provide it. This is part 1 of 2. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” was one of a number of selections in a stack of books that my 5 year old daughter collected at a summer visit to the Brentwood Public Library. My wife and I objected to the book, and after my written “Request for Reconsideration of Materials” was denied by Library Director Vicki Woods, I requested a hearing with the library trustees. I’m pleased to report that at least until the closing moments of the hearing, Ms. Woods, the trustees, and me enjoyed a healthy and respectful discussion of this and several related but tangential issues, despite the fact that there were obvious differences of opinion represented in the room. I repeatedly stressed that the foundation of my objection to this book rested on this fact: this book promotes, to the target audience of juveniles, an activity that is prohibited in the Constitution of Missouri, namely, homosexual marriage. It is a matter of debate if materials advocating illegal activities should be offered to adult readers, but it should be beyond question that such material ought not to be included in the library’s juvenile collection.
James Vandervoort October 21, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Part 2 of 3 The question thus arises of precisely whose standards shall be used in evaluating what material shall be included in a public library. Understandably, in a society as diverse as ours, a great many of these debatable topics arise, and a wide range of opinions on each of these topics will be represented and often held with passionate conviction. I therefore argued that the only practical and reasonable limits upon which the library can base its collection are those that respect the established law of the land. If the Rule of Law is not followed, the library’s collection is apt to follow the personal, political, and moral tastes of the library director and trustees. These tastes may often conflict with those of the public whose taxes fund the purchase of the collection in the first place, and whose votes have elected the legislators who have established the law of that land. If one has a desire to change society, a well-run democracy demands that it be done through the ballot box, not the bookshelf.
James Vandervoort October 21, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Part 3 of 3 Unfortunately, it became clear in the meeting that Ms. Woods sees no problem with books that seek to circumvent the established law - nor in circumventing her library’s own appeal process. My suspicions that this appeals process was no more than a kangaroo court appeared validated when Ms. Woods, unusually free from the inhibitions of professional better judgement, informed me towards the close of the discussion that she was adamantly NOT removing this book from the collection. (hey, who needs to wait for a quorum?) I don’t think I need to wait for my official letter of response in the mailbox to know what the outcome of the “voting” will be on this one. Finally, I find it notable that people who have never met me, and most of whom know very little about the facts of this situation, feel compelled to vigorously decry my actions, my assumed beliefs, and most of all, my presumed hatred of homosexuals in their posts. Ironically, it is this very bigotry they decry that they themselves may be practicing. We’re all better off if those who inhabit the extremes at both ends of the spectrum put away their pointed sticks and pitchforks and join those of us who wish to engage in reasoned political discourse.
it's pat who's that? October 21, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Are there any children's books on ambiguous genitalia? Just because you are "born" a certain way does not mean it should a topic of a book and be written about. It would be very confusing to a young child to read about an animal that is neither a boy or a girl. Why confuse them at such a young age. And why aren't animals "born" gay by the way? You do not see animals in the wild having sexual relations with the same sexed animal. HHHHMMMM It just opens up questions some families do not want to discuss with there children. It would be like trying to teach your child about a friend born with ambiguous genitalia. Why go there if you do not have to. I say put books up and out of the way of little hands.
RDBet October 21, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Thanks for the comments. Homosexuality is not illegal. A same sex marriage is not recognized as a marriage legally in MO. However, a ceremony for same sex couples, even if they call it a wedding, is fully legal. Thus, the basis for removing this book is flimsy at best. I am praying that the library board does the right thing and rejects your request.
MJ Stricklin October 21, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I refer back to my original statement: why was this child allows to leave the library with a stack of books that had not been reviewed as appropriate for the child, her reading level, and content. I believe the library should have a wide selection of material and that its the parent's job to monitor the actions of their child. Parents, not the public or the school system, have the responsibility to teach their children character and morality based upon their individual belief system. Shift the argument away from the library and back to the person ultimately responsible: the parent.
Mom of 1 October 22, 2012 at 11:31 AM
If legality is going to be the litmus test for children's books, then I guess we need to remove all books that contain pirates, imprisonment (rapunzel), attempted murder (snow white), or slavery/indentured servitude (Cinderella), stealing (robin hood), etc. Clearly this issue ISN'T legality or we would be hearing about a whole host of books that are inappropriate. This is an issue of one person wanting to inflict his moral judgements on everyone.
John Q. Public October 22, 2012 at 09:23 PM
And you think the "pro gay marriage" proponents have a right to inflict their moral agenda on the entirety of America. A vast majority of who have routinely turned this down in ballot initiatives. In fact, this issue has yet to pass a vote. Who's forcing on whom, now?
John Q. Public October 22, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Becca, Nobody's "conflating". The demand for previously non-existant "rights" is a slippery slope. Once you create a "right to marry" out of thin air, and in the process redefinie marriage to be anyone's chosen union, the state will have NO legal grounds to oppose polygamy, marriage to animals, marriage of siblings, or marriage to inanimate objects. etc. This is 100% irrefutable. And you can already see liberals in the entertainment industry attempting to move the ball. How many polygamy "reality" shows have been but on the air in the last few years? That's no coincidence.
John Q. Public October 22, 2012 at 09:39 PM
You clearly don't understand what the word "persecute" means. And have similar problems defining the word "hate" and "prejudice". I challenge you to find any proof of either in any of Mr. Vandervoort's statements. Tolerance (that all powerful god of the pc left) is a pretty nasty double-edged sword. Try as you might, you can't bend it to face just against your enemies. Ultimately, you are cut by the same weapon you wield.
John Q. Public October 22, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Trust me - the Vandervoorts were involved. They discovered what the book was about at home before they read it to their daughter. Mr. Vandervoort's complaint is that the book is available at all. It is incidental that they happen to check it out. See his comments toward the end of this thread.
Mom of 1 October 23, 2012 at 02:37 AM
John, you are making an impressive effort to miss the point. The complaint was made on the grounds that the book was about an illegal activity, however, no other books regarding illegal activities were mentioned. This is clearly an issue of someone not wanting to be honest about WHY he is bothered. In regards to moral values, a library's job is not to give morality. That is the job of parents. I teach my child that all people are created equal and adults have the right to enter into loving relationships. Sadly, not everyone beleives that. I'm glad that the Brentwood library is willing to make materials available that encourage tolerance. However, I will continue to be an active participant in my child's life so I can help her pick reading material that I think is appropriate. That's my job, not the library's. No one is forcing me to show my child any book I deem inappropriate.

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