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Conservatives Wage War on Drag Queen Story Hour


A Lousiana mayor is fighting to stop the event, which encourages individuality and acceptance.

A Louisana mayor is attempting to block a planned drag queen story hour event at the Lafayette Public Library in the newest attack on such events.

The program, in which drag queens read to children aged 3 to 6, builds bridges between the LGBTQ community and others by teaching kids the value of accepting individuality. The Lafayette program is to be hosted by Delta Lambda Phi, the queer men's fraternity at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the city's Daily Advertiser newspaper reports.

The event, announced over the weekend and set to take place October 6, will not focus on sex or gender, but it has already drawn backlash, with the leader of the consolidated city-parish government seeking to cancel it.

"In response to public requests, [Lafayette Consolidated Government] is working to determine how this event was approved as a programmed event of the library, who has authority to cancel or move it, and the process for doing so," said a statement issued by Lafayette mayor-president Joel Robideaux.

"I will be discussing cancellation of the event or privately-owned location alternatives with my appointment and encourage the Council to do the same. I will also be asking the Library's Board of Control to conduct a thorough review of its programming and approval process for taxpayer-funded events.

"Our parish libraries are public spaces, with venues that any group or individual can reserve, on a non-discriminatory basis, as required by law," the statement continued. "We have to be certain, however, that our internally approved programming is both appropriate and serves the needs of Lafayette Parish."

The library, however, has stood by its programming.

"All story programs for this age group are designed for families to attend together and involve books, songs and craft activities that encourage interaction among the children," library officials said in a statement. "The picture books that are read are content- and age-appropriate. The Drag Queen Story Time will share stories of individuality, openness and acceptance with families seeking an opportunity to show their children that every person is unique and should be treated with equal respect."

Even before the mayor spoke out, library director Teresa Elberson defended the event, noting that it was a collaboration with the fraternity, whose members will arrive in drag to read to the children and their families.

"We decided it would be a good way to talk about differences and acceptance," Elberson told the Daily Advertiser."The children's department said they would work with these young men and set the guidelines for what books would be read and what activities would be done."

"We knew it would be controversial, but we talked about it a lot," the director continued. "We are not planning on surprising anybody. That's why we labeled it, so people would know. They have a choice. It's one program out of 80 we are doing that month."

The National Coalition Against Censorship opposes the mayor's attempt to cancel the event.

"Robideaux is certainly free to express his opinion. But any attempt to use his power to compel the library to cancel programming because he dislikes the viewpoint it expresses puts him at risk of violating the First Amendment," said a statement issued by the coalition. "The beliefs of one individual -- or group of individuals -- cannot be allowed to undermine the rights of all members of the community to access programming in a public space. This particular programming also helps combat bigotry and stigmatization of LGBTQ youth, whose experiences are traditionally underrepresented or silenced."

This is not the first time conservatives have waged war on drag queen story hour. A self-proclaimed pastor named David Grisham filmed himself bursting into one to shout "there's no such thing as transgenders" in Anchorage in June. In Houston, an anti-LGBTQ Pastor Council emailed out a report about such an event, writing, "Pastors and responsible parents, please make sure to click on the top image and watch the full news story -- it is truly unbelievable." The pastor council is led by Dave Welch, who's known for his role in the 2015 campaign that led voters to repeal the LGBTQ-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

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