There was a tense standoff between opposing groups of protesters (pictured) outside the Cumberland Council chambers in western Sydney on Wednesday night

Hundreds of protesters have clashed in a tense standoff over a council’s controversial decision to ban books about same-sex parenting from its libraries.

There were fiery scenes outside Cumberland Council and inside the chamber in western Sydney on Wednesday night, where councillors are debating whether to overturn the ban. 

Dozens of police officers based at the station across the road from the council were forced to intervene and keep the large crowd apart.

The issue has split the community, with one group angry about the ban on a book featuring same sex families while the other is outraged at subsequent efforts to have the ban reversed.

Local grandmother Caroline Staples has led a campaign urging the council to overturn the ban, with almost 41,000 people signing a petition backing her plan, which was presented to councillors on Wednesday night.

‘We’re diverse, we’re different, we can sit down and come together around shared values. And not surprisingly, given what we’ve got behind us, they’re terrified. They’re terrified in their own community,’ she told 7News.

There was a tense standoff between opposing groups of protesters (pictured) outside the Cumberland Council chambers in western Sydney on Wednesday night

There was a tense standoff between opposing groups of protesters (pictured) outside the Cumberland Council chambers in western Sydney on Wednesday night

The protesters (pictured) are being kept apart by a heavy police presence due to the emotive issue that has raised tensions in the area and across the city

The protesters (pictured) are being kept apart by a heavy police presence due to the emotive issue that has raised tensions in the area and across the city

Police are pictured outside Cumberland City Council during a protest on Wednesday night

Police are pictured outside Cumberland City Council during a protest on Wednesday night

Local religious leaders were also in attendance to address councillors.

Cumberland Council has faced a massive amount of criticism locally, across Australia and from around the world since the ban was adopted a fortnight ago

Ms Staples said that if the council does not overturn the ban she will take the fight to the NSW government.

She’s also looking into whether the community’s human rights have been breached.

Supported by national LGBT+ group Equality Australia (EA), she presented two petitions to the council. 

The first was an EA petition that has 40,861 signatures, including 2,194 Cumberland residents. 

Another 10,065 people have signed a change.org petition.

Ms Staples, who lives in the area, is a mother-of-four and a grandmother in what she called ‘a rainbow family’.

She said the book that triggered the ban, which is called Same-Sex Parents and features two men and a child on the cover, is a ‘carefully crafted, entirely age-appropriate children’s book’.

‘We need to rescind this ban,’ she said, to shouts of both support and opposition from the public gallery.

Councillor Steve Christou, who put forward the amendment ‘that council take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials in council’s library service’, questioned Ms Staples. 

‘How many people didn’t sign the petition? That is all,’ he asked.

He later asked Ms Staples about her history of left wing politics and she admitted she worked part-time for NSW Labor MP Lynda Voltz, but said: ‘I’m here because I’ve lived here 40 years.’

Deputy mayor Ola Hamed accused Mr Christou, who is a former mayor, of ‘cheap political point-scoring’ for his support of the ban on same-sex parenting books.

‘Here we are again entertaining another time-wasting distraction from Councillor Christou, one that is hateful and divisive … All in the name of cheap political point-scoring,’ she said.

Mr Christou said his life has been threatened over the issue.

‘People approached me and voiced their opinions. I have received death threats, I have received abuse, my family has been abused … they don’t deserve that.’

Former mayor and current councillor Steve Christou (pictured) put forward the amendment 'that council take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials in council's library service'

Former mayor and current councillor Steve Christou (pictured) put forward the amendment ‘that council take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials in council’s library service’

A woman who opposes book banning is pictured at a protest in western Sydney on Wednesday night

A woman who opposes book banning is pictured at a protest in western Sydney on Wednesday night

Supporters of the council same-sex book ban are pictured at the protest outside Cumberland Council's offices

Supporters of the council same-sex book ban are pictured at the protest outside Cumberland Council’s offices

Protesters are pictured at a rally of rival factions in western Sydney on Wednesday night

Protesters are pictured at a rally of rival factions in western Sydney on Wednesday night

Wei Thai-Haynes, from the Pride in Protest organisation, said the group is ‘deeply disgusted’ by the council’s actions in banning same-sex books from its libraries.

‘Children will f***ing kill themselves because of … your actions,’ she said.

‘Shame on you.’

Mayor Lisa Lake warned those in the public gallery to calm down and let people speak without interruption.

‘Gallery, I will make you leave,’ she said. ‘Sorry, but I cannot run a meeting with people yelling to me in the gallery.’

Mohamad Hussein, the only Labor councillor who voted to support the ban, which was passed by six votes to five, told the meeting ‘It’s no secret that my decision has sparked criticism and backlash’.

‘As a devout Muslim, I hold strong religious beliefs that guard my actions and decisions. I respect the choices of individuals to live their lives as they see it.

‘I want to highlight the vast majority of residents in our LGA’s strong religious beliefs. Mine isn’t an isolated view, but one shared by a significant portion of our local community.

‘It goes against the values of teaching of Islam. As a councillor, it’s my duty to present the values of my community and I cannot in good consciences support something that goes against my religious beliefs.’

He added that ‘This is not a war on you guys,’ referring to the LGBT community.

An Equality Australia petition with 40,861 signatures was presented to the council. Protesters are pictured

An Equality Australia petition with 40,861 signatures was presented to the council. Protesters are pictured

Local religious leaders (pictured) were also in attendance to address councillors

Local religious leaders (pictured) were also in attendance to address councillors

Independent councillor Eddy Sarkis, said he read the book and had no problem with it, but it still made him uncomfortable as a Catholic.

‘I would find it somewhat difficult to sit there and say to my child, “This is normal,”‘ he said.

‘I couldn’t and I wouldn’t put any other parent in that position.’

He said the same-sex book’s place ‘is not in the children’s section, but perhaps in the teenage or adult section’.

A child is pictured speaking into a megaphone alongside counter-protesters outside the Cumberland City Council during a rally opposing the bans on gay parenting books and bans on drag story time in Sydney, Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A child is pictured speaking into a megaphone alongside counter-protesters outside the Cumberland City Council during a rally opposing the bans on gay parenting books and bans on drag story time in Sydney, Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Protesters against the banning of books are pictured outside Cumberland Council's chambers

Protesters against the banning of books are pictured outside Cumberland Council’s chambers

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