December 5, 2023
DeSantis' AG Puts 'And Tango Makes Three' on Par with 'Nazi Propaganda'
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.
When does free expression stray into Nazi propaganda territory? Is it when a president compares immigrants to "animals" or a former head of state calls his political foes "vermin?" Or is it when a kids' book recounts the tale of two male penguins and their adorable chick?
According to Florida's Attorney General, Ashley Moody, it's the latter. LGBTQ Nation reports that Moody pointed to "Nazi propaganda" in a filing she wrote opposing a lawsuit brought against the state for its book bans and library purges.
Moody argued that "Public school systems exclude materials like Nazi propaganda because they disagree that Nazis were wonderful, regardless of any educational value the materials may have."
But when it comes the right of government to dictate what books a library may offer, "Viewpoint-based educational choices are constitutionally permissible because public-school systems, including their libraries, convey the government's message," Moody posited.
"The lawsuit filed by authors and book publishers against the Escambia County School Board says the board violated authors' and publishers' First Amendment free speech rights by removing a gay-inclusive children's book, 'And Tango Makes Three,' and other books from its shelves," LGBTQ Nation recounts. "The book, one of the country's most frequently banned books, is about a same-sex penguin couple raising a chick."
The article notes that "Moody's brief also mentions two LGBTQ+-related Supreme Court cases to support their argument: Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) and 303 Creative LLC. v. Elenis (2023)," cases that "examined whether the government could force private business owners to express support for the LGBTQ+ community against their will.
Unlike those cases, however, "the Florida case is about whether the government can censor texts about queers and marginalized groups," LGBTQ Nation pointed out.
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida's state government has outlawed classroom acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ people, restricted how American history can be taught, and set about banning and purging books from libraries, all under the banner of "parents' rights." But the rights in question do not seem to reflect those of all parents equally.
Indeed, "There's considerable irony in that those who seek to limit access to books in school libraries often say they're fighting for parental rights," LGBTQ Nation quoted the head of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, Ken Paulson, as saying.
"If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved," Paulson added. "That's not parental rights – that's authoritarianism."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.