The rift among the factions on either side the Drag Queen Story Time controversy was laid bare this week, and it looks irreconcilable.
The Drag Queen Story Time event at the main branch of the Lafayette Public Library appears set to move forward, since the library’s board of c…
For the moment, the event is set to proceed Oct. 6 at Lafayette Public Library's main branch, although opponents filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to stop it. If nothing changes, a group of male University of Louisiana at Lafayette students dressed as women will read to children ages 3 to 6 for one hour on a Saturday afternoon.
The library board declined to place the item on its Monday meeting agenda or engage in any public discussion on it before allowing residents to comment. On Tuesday, the Lafayette City-Parish Council considered a resolution by Councilmen William Theriot and Jared Bellard to denounce the event, a symbolic gesture because the council does not have a say in library operations.
The Lafayette library board president submitted his resignation Monday as controversy continued over plans for male college students to read s…
Councilwoman Nanette Cook voted with Theriot and Bellard, saying she felt the event was inappropriate for young children. Cook said her vote only reflected her opinion and not any desire to “dictate what others can decide with regard to their own families.”
The other six council members abstained, mostly without comment. Council Chairman Kevin Naquin was the only other elected official to speak on the subject, although he didn’t exactly take a position. Naquin did echo some opponents of the event in questioning how the library administration and board could plan the event without engaging in public discussion.
The board that oversees Lafayette’s public library system hasn’t signaled its intentions concerning a “Drag Queen Story Time” for children tha…
“That amazes me,” Naquin said, addressing the library director, Teresa Elberson. “I would hope the library … would consider people’s thoughts.”
Predicting how the event will unfold is difficult, assuming it moves forward. It’s not clear if it will attract protesters or how the library plans to deal with them as well as media sure to cover the event. Elberson did not return a call or respond to an email message Wednesday.
Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said Wednesday his group will continue to seek “corrective action” from city-parish officials to stop the event but had not determined a course of action beyond that.
“I have no interest in attending a sexually oriented event for 3-year-olds,” Mills said when asked if his group would demonstrate at the event. “I may have others who have eyes on that event just to make certain that it doesn’t go south.”
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Mills’ comment reflected the gap in thinking among supporters and opponents of the event. Supporters insisted it was not about sex or gender identity but about teaching tolerance to children.
Speakers on both sides refused to cede ground during more than six hours of public comment spread across two meetings, each accusing the other of pursuing a destructive agenda.
Those preaching tolerance refused to accept that some people are uncomfortable with the event, while the event's opponents frequently claimed to have no prejudice before voicing anti-gay sentiments.
Linda Lanclos said at the council meeting her brother had died of AIDS, and therefore, “no one can accuse me of being a homophobe.” She then compared the library’s plans with allowing drug addicts to promote substance abuse.
“I can’t even imagine in my wildest dreams that an alcoholic or a drug addict might come and be allowed to come and promote their lifestyle,” Lanclos said. “Would you allow that? Of course, you wouldn’t allow that. Yet you are allowing this dangerous lifestyle to be promoted.”
Dylan Pontiff, who said he will be one of the drag queens reading to the children, complained of being called “disgusting” and then used that term to describe the behavior of the people in the audience who groaned disapprovingly at his comments.
In response, Theriot warned speakers to avoid name calling and “to control yourselves, stay on topic, stay on point.” He apologized to those in the audience who felt Pontiff had insulted them.
Theriot previously said the resolution being discussed was being limited to “public dollars, drag queens and 3-year-olds.”
He was silent after opponents such as Macklyn Guidroz and Bernard McLaughlin warned that Drag Queen Story Time could lead to pedophiles and jihadis organizing within library facilities.
“Over the course of my lifetime, things that we have found to be morally reprehensible now become a matter of course in daily life,” Guidroz said.
Timothy Miller, pastor of White Dove Church, struck a different note of criticism, arguing that the library was inappropriately aligning with one side in a culture war.
“I’m not pushing my religion on anybody. I’m just asking that somebody else’s belief not be pushed on me either, not in a tax-funded building,” Miller said. “Otherwise, let’s have a Bible study at the library on Saturday. I can’t do it because it’s not legal, and I’m OK with that.”
Matthew Humphrey spoke at the council meeting because, he said, he felt his story could illustrate the potential harmful consequences of failing to teach children to accept people who are different.
Humphrey said he grew up in a conservative religious household and that he knew he was “different” starting at 5 years old. Humphrey’s family taught him that homosexuality was wrong, he said, and he went to church nearly every day “hoping that God would take away this different and wrong part of me.”
Humphrey said he eventually accepted that he “was unloved by God, by anyone really,” and turned to drugs, alcohol and food to eliminate his misery. Nearing his 38th birthday, Humprey said he is only now learning to love himself.
“The extent of my self destruction is something I hope that children that are different int his parish never face,” Humphrey said.
Clarification: This article has been revised to clarify comments that Dylan Pontiff made at the council meeting.