The Bangor City Council may be on its way to eliminating a decades-old rule that bans most stores from carrying magazines, books and other publications that feature images of homosexuality on their outside covers.
It’s not clear how the city first included homosexuality in its ban on the public display of obscene material, which has been in place since at least 1976 and includes some exemptions. Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas said he is not aware of the rule ever being enforced during his 12 years working for the city, and no members of the public have recently complained about it.
Rather, a member of the Bangor Police Department recently noticed the rule and flagged it for city leaders, who say it is discriminatory since no similar ban is in place for images of heterosexuality.
On Monday, a committee of city councilors endorsed immediately changing the rule, which they said is discriminatory and antiquated.
“I really appreciate how quickly the city moved when this was identified,” Council Chairperson Sarah Nichols said. “Obviously this is a problem. I feel like times have changed dramatically since this ordinance was written.”
At their next meeting, councilors will vote on whether to remove the section of the rule that lumps “homosexuality” in with several overt sexual acts such as intercourse, masturbation and sodomy. Under the rule, those acts cannot be depicted in public spaces open to people younger than 18 unless the materials have some “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” or are concealed from public viewing.
The rule does not specify what subject matter could be classified as “homosexuality.” It also includes “nudity” and “sadomasochistic abuse” in the banned imagery.
Now, municipal staff also plan to research whether the rest of the rule can be wiped from the books after some councilors questioned its necessity.
“We recognize it’s a dated ordinance,” City Manager Cathy Conlow told the councilors. “We found an overtly discriminatory phrase that we felt we needed to remove immediately. We do have it on the burner to remove the whole thing.”