Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom clashed on Thursday at a debate hosted by Fox News.
In one segment, Mr DeSantis held up a page from the graphic novel Gender Queer, describing the acclaimed memoir about gender dysphoria as “pornography”.
“This is pornograpy, it’s cartoons, it’s aimed at children, and it’s wrong,” Mr DeSantis said.
“This should not be in schools when people on the left say that somehow you’re banning books by removing this from a young kid’s classroom. No, this is not age appropriate.”
Mr Newsom interpreted this, alongside Florida’s policies limiting classroom discussion and banning books around sexuality, as a wider attack on LGBT+ people.
“I don’t like the way you demean people. I don’t like the way you demean the LGBTQ+ community,” the California governor said.
Last year, Florida passed a bill banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grand, which the governor’s administration has since expanded to all grades.
Another law, passed by Mr DeSantis last year, requires a certified media specialist to evaluate all books available in classrooms and libraries.
Teachers can face felony charges if non-sanctioned books are present, prompting educators to strip their classroom shelves in fear of being prosecuted.
According to analysis of book bans across the US by PEN America during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year, as least 30 per cent of the impacted titles are books about race, racism, or feature characters of colour, and more than a quarter of all titles include LGBT+ characters or themes.
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