Protesters outside the Cumberland City Council
Hundreds of protesters gathered to oppose banning a book on gay parenting. Image by Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS

Council rescinds gay book ban after fiery protest

May 16, 2024

A book featuring same-sex parenting will return to library shelves after a Sydney council rescinded its ban on the text over concerns it betrayed the community’s “conservative values”.

Cumberland City Council, which covers a population of about 240,000 people living near Parramatta, narrowly voted earlier in May to “take immediate action to rid same-sex parents books/materials in council’s library service”.

But following community outrage and with the council’s funding under threat, members met on Wednesday night and reversed the ban.

A motion put forward by councillor Kun Huang passed comfortably, with only  councillors Steve Christou and Eddy Sarkis voting against it.

Labor councillor Mohamad Hussein, who supported the original ban, flipped his vote at the last minute to support the change.

Mayor Lisa Lake, who evicted multiple unruly attendees during the meeting, apologised for the hurt caused by the debate.

“Cumberland Council is actually quite an inclusive place and very welcoming, one of Sydney’s largest multicultural communities where we all manage to live together pretty harmoniously,” she told ABC TV on Thursday morning.

It was a very divisive and unnecessary debate about a little book that had been in our libraries for five years with no complaints … I’m hopeful we can all move forward now.”

Protesters outside the Cumberland City Council
 Fiery scenes erupted outside the meeting. Image by Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS 

Religious leaders, students, equality advocates and local families packed the chamber’s public gallery to argue for and against returning the book to shelves.

Fiery scenes played out outside as hundreds of protesters clashed in a tense stand-off.

Mr Christou, the former mayor who first put forward the motion, maintained the community wanted the book banned.

“I’m only echoing the views of my community,” he told the meeting while asserting it was “not an attack on gay or same-sex couples”.

“We cannot have toddlers just asking parents questions about genders and non-binaries,” he added.

But local leaders and community members disagreed.  

“You can ban a book on same sex parents but this won’t stop me, my friends, my family from picking up our kids from school or playing in the local park,” one woman said.

“You will have to ban us from your community too.”

Protesters outside the Cumberland City Council
 Protesters disputed claims that their community wanted a ban on same-sex parenting books. Image by Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS 

Councillor Sabrin Farooqui said the ban sent a harmful message and could result in $750,000 in council funding being removed.

“If the book contradicts your religious values, don’t read it,” she said.

“My child should be aware of the reality and this is the reality of Australia.”

Parents Sandy and Ady Fitter
 Parents Sandy and Ady Fitter say diversity is their community’s strength. Image by Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS 

Cr Hussein earlier said his religious views had strongly guided his decision in voting in favour of the ban.

“The vast majority of residents in our area have religious beliefs. Mine isn’t an isolated view but one shared by a significant portion of our community,” he said.

Five copies of the book A Focus On: Same Sex Parents have been in the council’s libraries since 2019. It has been borrowed once.

It forms part of a series that aims to inform children about “difficult realities” and “healthy ways for children to process and understand them”.