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Virginia Library Temporarily Avoids Closing Over LGBTQ+ Books Controversy

Virginia Library Temporarily Avoids Closing Over LGBTQ+ Books Controversy

Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, Va.

A temporary lifeline for Samuels Public Library fuels a broader struggle over free speech, discrimination, and community values as residents and officials clash over LGBTQ+ books.


A library in Virginia will remain open temporarily as the community it serves continues to grapple with a right-wing push to remove LGBTQ + books from its circulation.

The historic Samuels Public Library in Front Royal has received a lifeline that will keep its doors open for at least another three months, thanks to a temporary funding reprieve passed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors on a recent Tuesday night . This move grants the library and the county more time to negotiate the library’s control and its policy on LGBTQ+ books for young readers.

Yet beneath this temporary relief lies a more profound struggle about discrimination, constitutional rights, and the soul of a community.

What's the controversy at Samuels Public Library?

At the heart of the matter is the Board of Supervisors’ decision in June to withhold a significant portion of the library’s annual funding, a move prompted by pressure from conservative activists organized as a group called Clean Up Samuels and demanded stricter controls over children’s access to LGBTQ-themed books.

They demanded that books be removed from the public library. When that did not work, the group demanded that the elected supervisors take over the library, which operates under a public-private partnership with a non-profit organization running its daily operations.

Charles Stewart, a vocal supporter of the library and member of the Save Samuels group — a group supporting the library — passionately noted, “It’s less about books and more about silencing diverse voices. These actions tread dangerously close to violating the First and 14th Amendments.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech, while the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Considering the backdrop, it becomes clear that the implications here go far beyond the operation of a library.

Moreover, Stewart added, “When you pair these potential violations with the Virginia Values Act of 2020, which protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it becomes clear that this is more than a local library dispute; it’s a statewide concern.”

Front Royal residents speak out

“I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve seen our community evolve and grow, but I’ve never seen it so divided,” Valerie Minteer, who attended the Tuesday meeting, told The Advocate .

Minteer noted that the issue revolves around “discrimination and bigotry,” alluding to potential overreach and “Catholic Theocracy in Warren County.” Minteer accused the Board of not acting in good faith to resolve the contentious issue, fearing that the core values of the community were at stake.

“The decision of the Board was sheer political posturing. This was never about books. It’s about discrimination, bigotry, and what appears to be a Catholic Theocracy in Warren County.”

She continued, frustrated, “The requests for reconsideration are both invalid and discriminatory. Save Samuels will prevail, even if it necessitates legal action.”

Stewart, echoing Minteer’s sentiments, warned of potential legal consequences, stating, “Given the Board’s trajectory and the seeming pressure on the Library to mute LGBTQ+ voices, they’re on a crash course with civil rights litigation.”

Supervisors weigh in

On the other side, supervisors express a mixture of concerns and hopes. Supervisor Delores Oates, who is campaigning as a Republican for the state House of Delegates, acknowledged progress but took a firmer stance on content regulation at the meeting.

She would "never vote to deprive taxpayers of this incredible community service," she asserted, but in a foreboding tone, indicated should she earn a seat in the state House, a first priority would target the ability of institutions like libraries to provide what she deemed as ‘obscene content’ to children.

Supervisor Cheryl Cullers, displaying a more conciliatory stance, remarked, “What’s happening with the library is tearing this community apart and that breaks my heart."

Cullers also expressed her sorrow over the issue’s rift within the community.

She emphasized the need for a calm, deliberative approach, saying, “Let’s all take a breath, please, and let both boards work together for a contract that is acceptable to both.”


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