On Tuesday, a Virginia mother gave an impassioned speech criticizing local leaders for entertaining a demand from a local conservative religious group to take over the town’s library to appoint board members who will direct the library to remove LGBTQ+ books from its circulation at a public meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
As conservatives have targeted LGBTQ+ books in libraries nationwide, libraries in Iowa and Michigan have fallen victim to attacks, having to shutter their doors.
Clean Up Samuels, the local group behind the outrage, takes issue with LGBTQ+ books specifically being available for young people to check out, claiming they are akin to giving children pornography.
At the evening meeting, speakers complained that a non-profit organization ran the library as part of a public-private partnership, and those opposed to LGBTQ+ titles or authors being available had no control over the board, which amounted to “taxation without representation.”
After more than 40 minutes of speakers who claimed that the Samuels Public Library was making “pornography” available to children, Stevi Hubbard had heard enough.
The 44-year-old mother of two and long-time Front Royal resident who works as a local real estate agent and previously ran local Habitat for Humanity projects got up and addressed the elected officials, many of them by name.
Hubbard told The Advocate that she knows the members of the board of supervisors personally. She doesn’t think most of them would insult an LGBTQ+ member directly to their face.
“Why, then, would they consider doing it to the LGBTQ+ community as a group?” she asked, noting, “Because many of them don’t know any transgender people and because trans people have felt more comfortable living their lives, there’s this fear among them, but I promise you, nobody will make you trans just like nobody will make you gay.”
Hubbard said it wasn’t the first time she addressed community gatherings. She said this is because she is often the loudest voice in the room, called upon to speak by those who need support.
She shared that she initially didn’t think the board of supervisors would actually consider holding back funds from the Samuels Library.
“We’ve got so much craziness going on right now [in Front Royal],” Hubbard explained. “The library is kind of like the tip of the iceberg. I thought they were just pandering to these folks opposed to LGBTQ+ books in the library. I was not too concerned because I knew eventually, they’d give out the funding. However, when I saw the [memorandum of agreement], I started to think maybe they finally got them crazy enough to do this.”
Recently, the board submitted a memorandum of agreement to the library that outlined a new arrangement for the relationship between the public-private partnership of the library
She said that in addition to the library fight, a school board problem has presented itself in the area where a far-right-wing extremist takeover is afoot.
“So it’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” she chuckled.
During her fiery three-minute speech, which she said she didn’t prepare, she called out the “bigotry” and “fiscal irresponsibility” the county was endorsing if it were to insist on removing the books to fund the institution.
She started by confronting the elected board with a petition of about 5,000 names. She verified about 2,000 residents of the county who support the Save Samuels initiative that opposes the removal of LGBTQ+ books.
“These are your constituents,” she said, unfurling the taped-together pieces of paper. “These are the people that voted you in. These are the people that are from here. These are the apathetic people that don’t vote as much!”
In her interview with The Advocate, she laughed as she explained that she wanted a “[California Rep.] Katy Porter moment, which didn’t land as big as I had hoped.”
Porter is known to give effective presentations during congressional hearings where she uses effective visual aids to support her arguments.
During her public comment, Hubbard pointed out that LGBTQ+ people in the county deserve books in the library that reflect their experiences.
“What about my representation in the library? What about what I want my children to read? What about the four percent of LGBTQ members in your community that you represent that only get 1 percent of the books? Are they not being represented fairly with their tax dollars?” she said, adding,” The fight is ridiculous, and these people are disingenuous.”
As her time ended, Hubbard made one more point and addressed fiscally conservative values.
“If you take this library public and you try to remove those LGBTQ books, it’s fiscally irresponsible. You will be sued over and over again, and you will be playing with our money once again. How much are you willing to pay for their bigotry? How much are you willing to pay?“ she challenged the board.