A teenage staffer at a southwestern Wisconsin library claims a Republican congressional candidate threatened her over an LGBTQ Pride display.
Kerrigan Trautsch, a page at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library, told the La Crosse Tribune that Derrick Van Orden, a 2022 Republican congressional candidate who previously ran in 2020, came into the library on June 17 and complained loudly about a display of LGBTQ-related books in the children’s section. The display was set up as part of the library’s efforts to recognize Pride month.
Trautsch, who was 17 at the time, says Van Orden was angry, and said that the books offended him. He also said that taxpayers shouldn’t have to see such books.
Trautsch says Van Orden was particularly upset about the 2018 book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, released by comedian John Oliver’s weekly HBO show Last Week Tonight, which tells the fictional story of how Marlon Bundo, the pet rabbit of former Vice President Mike Pence, marries another male rabbit.
The Tribune obtained a written complaint that Van Orden filed with the library calling the book’s claims that same-sex marriage was illegal in the United States when it was written inaccurate. He also claimed the book, which is a parody, was propaganda and was “skewing young people to think Republicans are not inclusive.”
Van Orden demanded to know who had set up the Pride display so he could “teach them a lesson,” Trautsch said. She had set up the display herself but was too afraid of Van Orden to tell him, describing the situation as “very uncomfortable, threatening.”
“His voice was loud, he was aggressive, he had his finger jabbing into [the Marlon Bundo book] constantly,” Trautsch said. “He was full-on shouting at this point and he kept aggressively shoving the books around.”
Van Orden ended up checking out every book from the display except one a library patron was already reading, Trautsch said. She told the Tribune she was afraid Van Orden wouldn’t return the books or would return them damaged, but they were returned in good condition a week later.
However, Trautsch went home and told her parents that she didn’t feel safe at work anymore.
“I was terrified that he would be outside, that there [would] be a collection of people outside waiting for me, waiting for anyone else,” she said. “We were terrified.”
Van Orden’s campaign issued a statement to the Tribune in which the Republican said he supports equal rights for all Americans, including members of the LGBTQ community.
“It is 2021 and this should not have to be stated but there are people who continue to divide us as Americans for political purposes,” he said. “I will not allow them to further degrade the relationships we have as citizens.”
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