Eight Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives signed a joint statement Saturday calling their Speaker’s opposition to LGBTQ-centric events designed for children to be held in area public libraries “unfortunate.”
“As we enter the month of PRIDE, Ohio celebrates its diversity in culture and speech – that is why the recent comments from our House Speaker are unfortunate,” the joint statement begins.
It now appears another Library system is shutting down its PRIDE programming because of the furor this statement created.
Let’s be clear—the promise of America is not that we all agree on everything—but that we all agree to let everyone have their voice. That is certainly true for the nearly 500,000 LGBTQ Ohioans. At a time when the national political discourse has reached new lows—let us in Ohio embrace our diversity so that all can flourish.
The Democrats’ statement was in in response to an open letter, addressed to the Ohio Library Council and signed by Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) as Speaker of the Ohio House. He wrote, in part, “When I was first informed our public libraries were being used to teach teen age boys how to become drag queens, I thought it was a joke.”
He continued, “But the joke is apparently on the taxpayers who fund libraries. This is a stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust. And it must stop.”
The Democrats, all from Franklin County, include:
– Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus)
– State Representative Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester)
– State Representative Erica Crawley (D-Columbus)
– State Representative David Leland (D-Columbus)
– State Representative Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville)
– State Representative Beth Liston (D-Dublin)
– State Representative Adam Miller (D-Columbus)
– State Representative Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington)
Rep. Boggs posted the joint statement on Twitter along with a brief addition that said, “Libraries should be welcoming to all.”
Libraries should be welcoming to all. https://t.co/5UIyeMXD7b
— Kristin Boggs for OH (@Boggs4Ohio) June 1, 2019
Although the response online to Speaker Householder’s letter – and the Democrats’ reply – on Twitter and Facebook has been mixed, many with a negative reaction to the Speaker’s position attack not just him, but also citizens who support the event being shutdown. Comments like “bigot”, “transphobe”, “low IQ” and other personal attacks flowed frequently.
Controversy began two weeks ago when Delaware County residents became aware there was a “Drag 101” class scheduled at their local library. After a considerable amount of push-back from local residents, area elected officials, Ohio citizens, and national groups, the library canceled the event and a private citizen opted to host it.
State Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) who represents Delaware County, contacted Library Director Needham and expressed his concern. Needham did not share his views, but three days later canceled the program.
“Liberals say ‘separate church and state’ because they don’t want church morals imposed upon them,” Brenner said exclusively to The Ohio Star; adding:
They are being hypocritical using the state to impose their own version of morality with classes like this. That’s not what taxpayers want. Maybe libraries should use their money to help children learn to read, since we still have kids who can’t pass the 3rd grade reading test.
The day after the “Drag 101” class was canceled in Delaware County, central Ohio residents discovered the Licking County Library was planning to host a similar event. Two days later Speaker Householder wrote his public letter.
Still some organizations, like Equality Ohio, don’t believe there is any evil intent behind this. Dylan Pontiff – known in costume as “Santana Pilar” who participates in Drag Queen Story Hour in Louisiana – told his local city council, “I’m here to let you know that this event is something that’s going to be very beautiful and … that this is going to be the grooming of the next generation.” (emphasis added)
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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star. Follow Beth on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.