Photo: Cockburn Libraries / Flickr
A Republican lawmaker in Ohio has successfully stopped a public library from holding a pro-LGBTQ event, after he branded it a “stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust.”
Licking County Library had intended to hold an event for LGBTQ teens in celebration of Newark’s Pride Day.
The event, “A Universe of Stories – Galaxy of Diversity,” was scheduled for June 7, and intended to offer a drag queen celestial makeup tutorial, a safe-sex program, and crafts for making flag buttons and rainbow wings, the Newark Advocate reports.
But outcry quickly followed on social media, with some believing the event was designed to turn boys into drag queens.
That same strain of thought is what prompted Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to voice his disapproval of the event, after he learned of the backlash to it.
Householder wrote to the Ohio Library Council, telling them to end the event “immediately.”
“When I was first informed our public libraries were being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens, I thought it was a joke,” Householder wrote. “But the joke is apparently on the taxpayers, who fund our libraries. This is a stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust. And it must stop.”
Saying his letter was “about right and wrong, Householder, somewhat ironically, added: Our libraries are incubators for thoughts and idea, for debate and discussion, On this point, we can all agree.”
“But I can also assure you the taxpayers aren’t interested in seeing their hard-earned dollars being used to teach teenage boys hot to become drag queens,” he concluded. “I expect this to end immediately.”
However, Householder’s indignation that taxpayers should pay for the event was misplaced, as the Newark Ohio Pride Coalition later released a statement clarifying that they had funded the after-hours event.
“We are also interested in our local library using public resources to support their robust programming,” the organization wrote in response to Householder. “With that in mind, we decided to fully fund this program for the teenagers in our community, rather than expecting the Licking County Library to do so.”
The Coalition said the event was designed to celebrate “the individuality of our local LGBTQ+ and allied teens” ahead of the Newark Ohio Pride Festival.
While makeup and crafts were available at the event, they were optional, the Coalition said, and the main focus was on safe-sex and public health.
“We would like to conclude our statement by publicly asking Speaker Larry Householder to respect the civil liberties of Newark, Ohio’s residents,” they wrote. “We also ask that, in the future, Speaker Householder take the time to gather accurate facts, prior to issuing a factually inaccurate response to a program hosted by and for our community.”
But that wasn’t enough to save the event, with Licking County confirming on Friday that it had been canceled “due to pressure from statewide elected officials.”
Babette Wofter, director of Licking County Library, told the Newark Advocate that misinformation surrounding the event had become too difficult to control. However, she noted the library was somewhere for everyone to feel welcomed.
“The library is embedded in the community. We participate in a lot of different organizations and groups,” Wofter said. “We try to be in every facet of the community and the library is open and welcoming to all. That’s what public library service, to me, is all about.”