The Leander, Texas City Council voted 5-2 on August 15 to end library room rentals to the public in the wake of an outcry over a controversial Drag Queen Story Hour presentation.
The Council also voted 6-1 to require background checks for presenters to children aged 17 and younger, reported Community Impact Newspaper.
The votes came after several months of review of library policies and procedures when it was discovered a Drag Queen Story Hour event had been scheduled on June 15 at the library in Leander, a suburb of Austin.
Local pro-family organization Houston Mass Resistance released an exposé of Valeri Jinxy Abrego, the drag queen reportedly scheduled to be reading to the children at the event. The exposé includes many pornographic photos. Subsequently, protests flared and the City Council weighed its options.
The council decided the library could not sponsor the drag queen event, but ultimately allowed a private group, the LGBT activist Church of the Open Cathedral, to rent space at the library to host the drag queen presentation. The library then closed to the public on the day of the event, except for the story hour that was then termed a “pride” presentation.
The demonstrations during the story hour far surpassed any Leander had ever seen.
The city’s Mayor Troy Hill said the protests around the drag queen event ended up costing the city $20,000 in security – when the rental fee for the presentation was only $1,800.
“That’s not good math to me,” Hill said, reported NBC affiliate KXAN.
According to the Drag Queen Story Hour website, the aim of the event is to present gender fluidity as a positive quality children should accept and even emulate:
Drag Queen Story Hour captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity in childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, and where dress-up is real.
Concerns about safety at the Drag Queen Story Hour events made headlines recently when Houston Mass Resistance discovered drag queen Alberto Garza, who uses the name Tatiana Mala-Nina when reading to young children, had been convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy. The Houston library system had failed to perform a background check on Garza or any of the other drag queens appearing in its programs.
Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon, also faced backlash when it was found the library system had quietly removed from social media photos of the Drag Queen Story Hour that took place at one of its libraries during which young children were lying on top of the drag queens and fondling their false breasts.
Christine Sederquist and Kathryn Pantalion-Parker were the two Leander City Council members who opposed ending library rentals to the public.
“We already have things in place to protect our citizens and ensure costs,” Sederquist said regarding the security issue. “There’s no reason to take away something from them.”
“We have one issue that occurred in a magnificent city, our little city of Leander, one issue happened, and now it’s punishing everyone who does play nice in the sandbox, follows the rules and behaves themselves,” Pantalion-Parker said.
Councilmember Jason Shaw said while the decision to end library rentals was difficult, he believed it was the right thing to do.
“I hate that we’re having to do this, to take it away,” he explained, adding:
But people are going to attack. If we don’t just make it even across the board, people are going to attack and they’re going to probe. It’s going to cost the city and eventually, somebody’s going to get hurt. Things are going to escalate and somebody’s going to get hurt.
Use of the library will now be limited to those events sponsored by the library, city government, or the parks and recreation department.
Regarding background checks for presenters of children’s programs, Leander City Council member Michelle Stephenson said she undergoes them when she volunteers at her child’s school.
“I think having policies set down in writing is a good thing,” she said, reported Community Impact. “It gives you something concrete.”
Mary Elizabeth Castle, a policy advisor for the pro-family advocacy group Texas Values, said the city made the right decision.
“Texas Values appreciates that there will be thorough background checks in the new policies for outside presenters,” she said. “I reiterate you’re doing the right thing in setting these policies and stopping these events.”