Magazine article American Libraries

Gay Pride Exhibit Leads to Countywide Ban

Magazine article American Libraries

Gay Pride Exhibit Leads to Countywide Ban

Article excerpt

A library school student's display of gay-themed young adult books in a public library branch for Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June has sparked a controversy that resulted in an official ban on promoting gay pride events in Hillsborough County, Florida.

University of South Florida SLIS student Meagan Albright originally developed the display for a course on children's and YA materials for multicultural and special populations. The class was taught by Assistant Professor Linda Alexander, who told American Libraries that the display consisted of about 20 books, a bibliography of gay-themed titles for teens, a pamphlet listing gay and lesbian support organizations, and a poster showing such gay celebrities as Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John.

Because she worked part-time at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library's West Gate branch, Albright asked and received approval to set up the exhibit near the library's entrance, Alexander said.

Shortly after the display went up the library received an official complaint about its appropriateness for children, and THCPL Director Joe Stines decided June 6 that it should come down. The reason, he said in the July 17 St. Petersburg Times, was that it hadn't been cleared by the committee that organizes book displays and included pamphlets from outside organizations.

But this prompted other complaints, so the branch staff created a different gay pride exhibit, this time focusing on books for adults, and set it up a few days later in the less visible, adult fiction section.

Meanwhile, the controversy became a hot topic at a June 8 budget workshop of the Hillsborough County Commission, which pondered whether the library should have had a gay-themed exhibit at all. "I do not want to have to explain to my daughter what it means to question one's sexuality," said commission member Ronda Storms, who in April had persuaded her colleagues to consider modifying the library system's acquisition policy regarding popular-culture DVDs (AL, June/July, p. 21). Storms promptly put the issue of library displays on the commission's agenda for the following week.

Gay pride ban approved

At their June 15 meeting, Hillsborough County commissioners voted to "abstain from acknowledging, promoting, or participating" in any gay pride recognition or events. The board passed the proposal 5-1 after minimal discussion, despite many pleas from gay-rights advocates during an earlier public comment period, the June 16 Times reported.

Commissioner Kathy Castor cast the lone dissenting vote, saying, "I think it's inappropriate for government to promote discrimination. …

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