An upcoming event at the Downtown branch of the St. Joseph Public Library has lead to online petitions, with citizens both supporting and reprimanding a decision to host a Drag Queen Story Hour at the facility.
The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, is part of the library’s series titled “Celebrating All of Us.” The series already has included events focusing those in the community who deal with Down syndrome and vision and hearing impairments.
“All of these minorities are tax-paying members of the community, and we want to fully represent that tax base,” said Josh Swindler, a children’s librarian. “It’s really about highlighting these communities and celebrating the ways we’re different and celebrating the ways we’re the same.”
Shortly following the announcement that drag queen Vivian Versace would be reading and interacting with children at the library, an online petition was created titled “STOP Drag Queen Story Hour at St. Joseph Library!”
In the online petition, its creator said the event is a way for those in the LGBT community to push a lifestyle.
“Public libraries have become a breeding ground for “Drag Queen Story Time” all over the country. This small percentage of the population has found a legal loophole to ensure they push their alternative lifestyles on our communities,” a post on the petition said. “This is a blatant attempt to push a sexual and pro-pedophilic agenda, using a public library and therefore public funds as the platform.”
The petition had more than 600 signatures as of 5 p.m. Monday. News-Press NOW attempted to reach the petition’s creator and several of those who signed it, but no one was willing to discuss it. A Facebook event encouraging signers confront the library board was deleted soon after requesting comment.
In response to the petition, City Councilman Brian Meyers created a petition titled “Support Drag Queen Story Hour,” which had around 1,300 signatures as of 5 p.m. Monday. Meyers said he was acting as a private citizen when he created the petition, and he wanted the library board to know there is support in the community for the event.
“The point is this: If you don’t like an event that is being held in public, then you don’t have to go to that event,” Meyers said. “If you don’t want your children exposed to something that goes against your moral principles, then don’t bring your children to them.”
Swindler said he is expecting citizens to attend the library board’s next meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the East Hill Library, and he is willing to answer any questions that may arise.
“One of the hallmarks of libraries is that we don’t censor information,” Swindler said. “It’s really important to us that every voice be heard equally on this issue, even the ones who are in opposition to us.”
Jessika Eidson can be reached
Follow her on Twitter at @NPNowEidson