LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a lawsuit Friday, intervening in an ongoing feud between the Lafayette Public Library system and community organizers after unsuccessful attempts to host a Drag Queen Story Hour event at a parish library in August.
The action targets a specific policy requiring library patrons to sign documents promising not to use library spaces for the purpose of hosting a Drag Queen Story Time Event, citing cases involving two residents of Lafayette Parish who attempted to book rooms at the Lafayette Public Library in December and January specifically, and were asked to sign the forms. Should someone violate the terms of the document and host a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ event “directly or indirectly,” they’d be sued.
“These extremists are attempting to usurp the public library for their intolerant agenda,” said ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton in a news release. “Their baseless claims are legally and factually incorrect, and we won’t let them use the legal system to spread hatred and intolerance.”
Former president of the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control, Joseph Gordon-Wiltz, resigned Monday, August 27 following controversy over the event. At the same time, U.S. Representative for Louisiana Third Congressional District Clay Higgins also released a statement condemning the organizers of the event and questioning the judgment of the Lafayette Public Library Board.
Friday, Lafayette Public Library Director Teresa Elberson told WAFB she was unable to comment on the “rapidly evolving” litigation. You can read the full statement below.
“We have recently been made aware of new filings by the ACLU in the already pending lawsuit. Our attorneys are aware of these new filings, and since this remains part of pending litigation that is rapidly evolving, we cannot comment at this time."
In her statement, Elberson references a previous lawsuit filed by members of groups called Warriors for Christ and Special Forces of Liberty. An excerpt from that lawsuit can be read below.
“The Plaintiffs object to self-identified transgenders exploiting the state’s endorsement of their religious ideology in an government endorsed effort to brainwash and indoctrinate minors to a religious worldviews on sex, faith, truth, gender, morality, and marriage in a manner that excessively entangles the government with the religion of postmodern-western-individualistic-moral relativism - referred to mainly by the Plaintiffs and the United States Supreme Court as “Secular Humanism.” By endorsing transgenderism in the manner complained of the city of Lafayette is relegating Christians to second class citizens.”
Representatives from the ACLU of Louisiana dismissed the previous action as “frivolous,” and said the library’s ban is a failed response to that lawsuit, aimed at avoiding critiques from the community.
“Lafayette library officials have imposed a gag order on their patrons,” said Katie Schwartzmann, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “It’s a fundamental principle of our democracy that the government can’t discriminate against you – or silence you – based on the content of your speech. The fact that this particular ban targets LGBTQ Louisianans based upon fear-mongering and discrimination is particularly egregious. The Lafayette library and Parish government have to stand up to anti-LGBTQ extremists and start defending the rights of everyone it serves.”
Arguing that the library’s policy violates the First Amendment, both the ACLU’s legal arm and the lawsuit’s plantiffs hope the library will ultimately declare the ban unconstitutional and enjoin the Lafayette Public Library from enforcing it.
“Kids who are different have to know it’s okay, and kids who aren’t different have to know it’s okay for other kids to be different. That’s what Drag Queen Story Time is all about,” said plaintiff Matthew Humphrey explaining why he wants to organize a Drag Queen Story Time event at the public library in January.
“Drag Queen Story Time has widespread support in Lafayette, and it’s called a ‘public’ library for a reason. We’re not just fighting for Drag Queen Story Time, we’re fighting for everyone’s right to be themselves and speak their minds – without being discriminated against, censored or banished from public spaces,” said plaintiff Aimee Robinson.
The Drag Queen Story Time event the two plaintiffs hope to host at the Lafayette Public Library more closely resembles a similar event hosted in Baton Rouge as opposed to the previous event scheduled at the Lafayette Public Library. The original Drag Queen Story Hour was planned by members of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity of “gay, bisexual and progressive men.” Expecting a high turnout, organizers moved the event to South Louisiana Community College, before it was cancelled due to security concerns.