Library officials and activists in a small Pennsylvania town have successfully fought back against homophobic politicians who sought to punish the library for letting an LGBTQ+ group meet there.
The Fulton County Library in McConnellsburg, located in the south-central part of the state, had requested an increase in county funding from $12,000 to $15,000 in the coming year, bringing the figure back up to what it had been several years ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. But two of the three members of the Fulton County Commission, both Republicans, voted against the increase because, they said, the library was supporting a “hate group.”
That “hate group” is the LGBTQ+ community, according to commissioners Randy Bunch and Stuart Ulsh. When the lone Democrat on the commission, Paula Shives, asked the men to explain their opposition, Bunch said, “If we support them, we have to support Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter.”
After Bunch’s bizarre conflation of a white supremacist group and a racial justice organization, Ulsh added his own weirdness to the conversation by saying, “Do we want Muslims moving into our county?”
After the vote, Bunch told Fulton County News reporter Cassidy Pittman, “I don’t hate anybody. I’m just saying that LGBTQ and any of those organizations make people upset. I personally think none of them need any part in Fulton County. I don’t dislike anybody; I just don’t want something that’s going to create friction between people.”
The source of that “friction,” in Bunch and Ulsh’s opinion, is the fact that library officials have granted an LGBTQ+ support group’s request for meeting space there. The LGBTQ+ population of Fulton County is small and “largely invisible,” the Inquirer notes. McConnellsburg has a population of about 1,200 and the county about 15,000, making it the fourth least populous county in the state. Fulton County is deeply conservative, with 85 percent of its vote in the last presidential election going to Donald Trump, the highest percentage in Pennsylvania.
Emily Best, a former Fulton County resident, read about the denial of the extra funds and decided to fight back. She set up a GoFundMe campaign last week with an initial goal of $5,000, only to see that figure exceeded after one day. The campaign has now raised more than $20,000, aided in part by Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Futterman, who promoted it on Twitter. Another campaign, set up by Sarah Paylor Cutchall on Facebook, has raised more than $9,000.
“There’s no immediate plan for how that new money will get spent, but [library director Jamie Brambley] told me the library would love to add to its current collection of 25 almost-always-out internet ‘hot spots,’ expand its on-site community resources such as 3-D printers and sewing machines, and add to its growing collection of expensive but increasingly popular e-books,” wrote Inquirer columnist Will Bunch (no relation to Randy).
The columnist called the county commission’s denial of funding “the latest outrageous salvo in an increasingly bitter American culture war — with the right wing on the offensive against books, teachings, or discussions around race relations or LGBTQ subjects.” But the forces of inclusion can claim a victory in Pennsylvania, he said.
The “real value” of the successful fundraising effort, he concluded, is “that political hate and ignorant intolerance can be beaten back, even in Pennsylvania’s Trumpiest county.”