On October 6 members of Delta Lambda Phi, a gay-inclusive fraternity at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, are slated to read to kids ages 3 to 6 while dressed in drag. The event was the topic of discussion at a recent Lafayette city council meeting, where those who gave public comments were nearly unanimous in their support.
“It’s important for young kids to understand this is normal behavior, even if it may be different to some,” Brad Parfait, a sophomore at UL-Lafayette, told the Acadiana Advocate. “It’s not something you should be bullied over.”
Similar drag story time events have been held everywhere from New York and San Francisco to Galveston, Texas, and Manhattan, Kansas. The Association for Library Service to Children calls the performers “library pioneers.”
But the event is not sitting well with Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who has said he may look into trying to cancel the event.
“Our parish libraries are public spaces, with venues that any group or individual can reserve, on a non-discriminatory basis, as required by law,” Robideaux (below) said in a statement. “We have to be certain, however, that our internally approved programming is both appropriate and serves the needs of Lafayette Parish.”
Library director Teresa Elberson says the show will go on unless the governing board tells her otherwise.
“These individuals aren’t talking about sex or gender or anything to do with that at all. We are trying to use an individual wearing a dress to open the conversation about being different. That’s it.”
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) condemned the Louisiana mayor, stating that Robideaux’s efforts to block the story hour “puts him at risk of violating the First Amendment.”
“As a public space, it is crucial that the library be free to host programming that may not appeal to all citizens, but that fosters open discussion and encourages discovery.”
The controversy led Lafayette library board president Joseph Gordon-Wiltz to resign on Monday. While he didn’t disclose his personal feelings about the story hour, Gordon-Wiltz, who was appointed by Robideaux, said he didn’t agree with how the mayor was handling the situation.
“[I don’t want] to impugn the dignity of any citizen of the Parish of Lafayette,” he told the Acadiana Advocate, adding that he would not “compromise myself in how I vote.”
The September 8 event is being produced by Rainbow Mobile, and will receive no money from the library or the city, but evangelical leaders claim it’s an “opening salvo in a clearly defined cultural war.”
“We must protect our children,” Rev. Mack Morris of Woodridge Baptist Church on Monday. “Their plan is not a one-time gig at the library but rather it is a carefully crafted political agenda with the idea of infiltrating the public-school system where their immoral teachings shall be used to indoctrinate young children. I rise to join a chorus of many who say leave our children alone.”
A demonstration and counterdemonstration are expected outside the Mobile library on September 8.