Two women ruined a San Diego public library’s Pride display by checking out nearly all of its LGBTQ+ books in protest.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Rancho Peñasquitos residents Amy Vance and Martha Martin checked out 14 books included in the display at Rancho Peñasquitos Library in Inland San Diego County because they objected to material that deals with sexual orientation and gender identity being available to children.
“Minor children have the right to belong to a community that respects their innocence and allows families to have conversations about sex and sexual attraction privately, and only when parents deem it appropriate,” the women wrote in a June 15 email to head librarian Misty Jones after checking out the books. “It’s time for the American public libraries to once again be a respectful space for young children to freely explore great ideas that unite and inspire us all, rather than places where controversial and divisive new ideological movements are given free rein to promote their theories and policy positions about sexuality to children without the consent or notification of parents.”
In her response to Vance and Martha, Jones defended the display, which she said was not in or near the library’s children’s section.
“Displays such as the one at Rancho Peñasquitos send a powerful message that LGBTQ+ patrons and their allies are respected members of our community,” Jones wrote. “They also serve to encourage conversations and dispel misconceptions and stereotypes that often surround the LGBTQ+ community.”
“Pride displays are much like other displays that recognize other cultures, holidays or causes so that we can recognize the experiences of others and have a more inclusive and equitable society,” she continued. “We are proud of our position in encouraging members of our community to learn, grow and celebrate our differences.”
“It seems like these two women were trying to hide LGBT people away,” Jen Labarbera, director of education and outreach for San Diego Pride, said. “We’ve fought many years to prevent that. There’s nothing wrong with being LGBT.”
San Diego city councilmember Marni von Wilpert, whose district includes Rancho Peñasquitos, said that she was shocked to see this kind of protest against LGBTQ+ books in San Diego. “Denying others the right to read LGBTQ-affirming books is just another way of telling LGBTQ people they don’t belong — and that’s dead wrong,” she said. “Everyone has the right to read what they want, but absolutely no one has the right to keep others from reading books that reflect their experiences and backgrounds.”
But Jones said that protests in the area against Pride displays and drag queen story time events have gotten progressively worse over the last five years.
Across the country, school and public libraries have increasingly become the focus of conservatives attempting to ban books dealing with the LGBTQ+ experience, while in some states armed members of far-right hate groups have shown up at local libraries to intimidate patrons attending drag queen story time events.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the library gives patrons five automatic renewals unless another patron requests a book they’ve checked out, so no action will be taken until the books are due back at the branch. If Vance and Martha do not return the books on time, the matter will be taken up by the library’s collections division.
In the meantime, city councilmember Wilpert told the paper she is working with nonprofit groups to raise money to replace the books, which reportedly cost around $235 in total.