LAFAYETTE, LA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today filed a lawsuit challenging the Lafayette Public Library’s ban on Drag Queen Story Time, an educational program designed to encourage tolerance and combat gender stereotypes.
The lawsuit, brought by two Lafayette Parish residents who wish to organize a Drag Queen Story Time at the library, asserts that the ban violates the First Amendment and infringes on their constitutionally-protected right to free speech.
“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.”
Earlier this month, the fringe, self-styled “Warriors for Christ” filed a frivolous lawsuit to block Drag Queen Story Time. Because of the lawsuit, the Lafayette Public Library began requiring anyone seeking to use the library meeting room to sign a form disavowing any affiliation with Drag Queen Story Time and pledging not to use the space for that purpose.
“These extremists are attempting to usurp the public library for their intolerant agenda,” said ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton. “Their baseless claims are legally and factually incorrect, and we won’t let them use the legal system to spread hatred and intolerance.”
The form requires users to certify that “the purpose of your use of the Lafayette Public Library’s meeting room does not pertain in any way to ‘Drag Queen Story Hour,’ directly or indirectly.” The form also threatens residents that they may be sued if they use the library for that purpose.
“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. The event was planned to teach kids about inclusion and anti-bullying.
“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.
Arguing that the library’s policy constitutes targeted, viewpoint-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment, the lawsuit asks the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and enjoin the Lafayette Public Library from enforcing it.