Ohio’s Libraries and Legislature Should Serve as Centers of Public Discourse

Dear Friends,

Have you heard about the latest attack on LGBTQ+ rights? Last weekend Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder used the power of his office to call for Ohio libraries to discontinue LGBTQ+ affirming programming.

So what happened?

Two Central Ohio LGBTQ+ events planned to coincide with Pride month were recently moved to non-library locations. Most recently, Speaker Householder demanded that a Licking County library prohibit drag-related programming at public libraries.

From the Speaker’s own mouth:

  • “When I was first informed our public libraries were being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens, I thought it was a joke. But the joke is apparently on the taxpayers, who fund our libraries. This is a stunningly bizarre breach of public trust. And it must stop.”
  • “Let me be crystal clear — this isn’t about banning books or banning thought or any other red herring argument. This is about right and wrong. This is about being good stewards of the public’s money. Our libraries are an incubator for thought and ideas, for debate and discussion. On this point, we all can agree. But I can also assure you the taxpayers aren’t interested in seeing their hard-earned dollars being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens. I expect this to end immediately.”

Householder’s insistence that such programming is an affront to all taxpayers reveals that not only is he against the use of libraries as a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth and adults, he is not even able to consider that other Ohioans may have a different perspective than his own.

This is concerning behavior from the person who is leading one house of the state legislature and charged with representing the needs of Ohioans.

Equitas Health condemns Speaker Householder’s ignorance and his willingness to use his position of power to kick-off LGBTQ+ Pride Month by stirring up hate across Ohio. The use of fear-based divisive tactics by an elected official is a stunning example of why we need public libraries to function as independent centers of public education and discussion.

Our public libraries are critical levelers. For decades they have reduced gaps in access to knowledge, information, and entertainment. They serve as places of congregation for meaningful discussion. They are meant for every person and every idea. Today they bridge the digital divide and offer a place of welcome to immigrants, refugees, homeless people, and many others in need.

What are we going to do about it?

The Equitas Health Institute has proudly trained library staff in creating affirming environments for LGBTQ+ patrons and has held public forums about LGTBQ+ health equity at libraries around the state.

We are prepared to offer the same training and resources to Speaker Householder and any members of Ohio’s General Assembly to help make our government offices more inclusive for the people they represent.     

We are thankful to Ohio’s libraries for their critical service as the center of public discourse. Ohio’s representative legislative body should serve the same purpose. We invite Speaker Householder and all members of Ohio’s General Assembly to join the thousands of Ohio companies, educational institutions, medical providers, social service agencies, and individuals who have participated in our trainings and worked to make Ohio a safe and affirming state for LGBTQ+ residents.

Yours in the fight,

Julia Applegate

Director, Equitas Health Institute

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