Ongoing outrage over Cumberland’s same-sex parenting book ban: protest to come

Ongoing outrage over Cumberland’s same-sex parenting book ban: protest to come
Image: Pride in Protest at a rally. Photo: zebdeeparkes, Instagram



As part of the ongoing outrage over Cumberland City Council’s recent ban on gay parenting books and drag storytime, activist group Pride in Protest will be leading a protest outside council chambers during their next meeting on May 15.

Last week on May 1, former mayor and current councillor Steve Christou successfully passed an amendment to the Library Strategy 2024-2027 to ban books featuring same-sex parents in Cumberland’s 7 council-run libraries.

He brandished the book Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig before council, which he said had caused parents to be “distraught”. He has also publicly confirmed never to have read the book.

Same-Sex Parents, by Holly Duhig

During the meeting, six councillors voted in favour of the motion, which read: “That Council take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials in Council’s library service.”

Cr Christou’s argument was that same-sex parenting books did not align with the values of the community, and that “our kids should not be sexualised.”

Labor councillor Mohamad Hussein backed the motion, breaking ranks with his party in a move condemned by NSW Labor minister Rose Jackson.

On X, formerly Twitter, she wrote, “Stop being weirdly obsessed with how other ppl live their private lives and thinking you look tough punching down on minorities. It’s pathetic.”

“Don’t like the books? Don’t read them.”

Five councillors voted against the motion, including Mayor Lisa Lake.


Councillor Steve Christou. The Greek Herald

In a statement posted to Instagram, Pride in Protest said it was “time for the community to demonstrate that we do not accept the transphobic and homophobic rhetoric of extremist and bigoted Christian conservatives, their ideas, and their cronies on the Council.”

They said books depicting rainbow families, or drag performers reading stories, are “a normal part of life” and are not indoctrinating or sexualising children.

“We reject the idea that western Sydney is a hub of bigots who support these homophobic bans, or the earlier extremist proposals to ban halal, Chinese New Year, or Acknowledgement of Country by Councillor Christou,” the statement continued.

In January, Cr Christou said both Welcome to Country and smoking ceremonies did not represent the people of his electorate, and that the ceremonies were divisive and pandering to a “minority”.

In a written response to City Hub inquiries, Pride in Protest said, “It’s clear he is just a provocateur flailing for attention using racism, queerphobia and whatever bigoted talking points are in the news for political ends.”

“Just let kids be kids”

In conversation with City Hub, Cr Christou asserted that the book ban was “not an attack on gay people.”

“I just don’t want any form of book that might be controversial or distract from innocent and joyful reading time at the library,” he said.

“Two year olds and young children should not be exposed to any sexualised content. Just let kids be kids.”

He also emphasised that the motion was “absolutely representative for the local residents concerns.”

“We have a unique makeup of residents, where 60 per cent of the people are born overseas. They come from very family, conservative, religious values abroad, regardless of their religious background.”

A longtime resident of the Cumberland area, grandmother Caroline Stephens, has said that the council motion crosses a dangerous line.

“Here in Western Sydney, we welcome people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We don’t ban people or families. Our diversity is part of what makes living in our area so special. We are better than this motion,” she said.

Stephens is a mother of four and a “proud grandmother to a rainbow family”.

“The council motion has made me fear for the safety of the rainbow families in our community and the future cohesion of our community,” she continued.

She has launched a petition, hosted by Equality Australia, to be presented at the next council meeting in a bid to rescind the motion. At the time of publication, the petition has almost 35,000 signatures.

Rebuffing claims that the motion represents the local views, Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh said, “The council seems to be clinging to some kind of backward stereotype that people in Western Sydney are bigoted and can’t decide for themselves what to borrow from the local library.”

“The local community and its rainbow families deserve better than this.”

Widespread backlash

The state government has since threatened to pull funding from Cumberland City Council over the book ban, with Arts Minister John Graham saying he was reconsidering the financial implications for the council.

“We are examining the consequences this decision may have for the council continuing to receive library funding from the NSW government,” he said.

“When civilisations turn to burning books or banning books it is a very bad sign. That is equally true for local councils.”

“It is up to readers to choose which book to take off the shelf.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns has similarly slammed the move while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

“What a joke,” he said.

“It’s a library – you can choose to read a book or not.“

Federal member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek MP, told City Hub that “it’s love that makes a family.”

“Banning age-appropriate books about rainbow families is hurtful and narrow-minded nonsense.”

Member for Wentworth Allegra Spender said the ban is “absolutely appalling”.

“This is a shameful attempt to erase the experience of LGBTQ Australians. We should be celebrating the diversity of our country, not censoring it.”

Rainbow Labor NSW has similarly condemned the move, saying censorship and book bans have no place anywhere in this country. 

“Local government councils have a responsibility to promote diversity and inclusion in their libraries and provide access to this information to educate people,” they said in a statement provided to City Hub. 

“Public libraries should be a place where people are able to access diverse materials on a range of different ideas to help expand their understanding outside of their everyday experience.”

“Introducing a ban of this nature sets a negative precedent for other local councils and actively promotes exclusion and discourages acceptance of LGBTIQA+ families and community members.”

Protest demands 

The protest is set to go ahead next Wednesday, May 15, at 6pm outside council chambers.

Pride in Protest is demanding that, Cumberland City Council rescind the bans on books depicting same-sex parenting and drag queens reading story books in libraries; Chris Minns and NSW Labor expel Labor council members who have caused these bans; and NSW Labor pass the Equality Bill in full.

The activist group told City Hub, “Both the book ban and the ban on drag storytime need an immediate repeal, there needs to be an apology to the community from these Labor councillors who either voted in favour or abstained, for failing their constituents, and if individual councillors can’t get in line NSW Labor needs to expel them.”

“Moreover, the state government should unwaveringly support the Equality Bill; currently our Anti-Discrimination Act gives no protections for this kind of heartless persecution.”

“There also needs to be investment in community-led efforts to challenge bigotry and discrimination. This includes proper funding of programs like Safe Schools, anti-discrimination education in schools and libraries, and access to events like drag storytimes for families and communities to come together.”

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