The ACLU of Louisiana filed suit Friday against a public library to end its ban on any program in which men in drag read to children.
Reserving a meeting room requires people to sign a form saying they won't use the library for such purposes, Amber "Aimee" Robinson of Lafayette and Matthew Humphrey of Youngsville, who want to organize such an event at the Lafayette Public Library, say in the lawsuit.
"Lafayette library officials have imposed a gag order on their patrons," said Katie Schwartzmann, legal director for ACLU of Louisiana.
The suit was filed in federal district court in Lafayette, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) west of New Orleans.
"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," Humphrey said in an ACLU news release.
He and Robinson are both members of a group called Acadiana Supporters of Drag Queen Story Time, which is not part of Drag Queen Story Hour and wants to use a library meeting room to plan its own event, Schwartzmann said.
She said the library began using the form after it was sued to stop plans for the story hour by people claiming "transgenderism" is a religion.
The library had agreed not to plan a Drag Queen Story Hour while the suit was in court, but what it's doing goes beyond that agreement, according to the ACLU lawsuit.
The earlier 58-page suit identifies Aaron Guidry and five other plaintiffs as members of groups called Warriors for Christ and Special Forces of Liberty, an "ardent tax lobbyist." Two plaintiffs, Grace Harley and Whitney Kohl, are described as "a former transgender activist" and "a former self-identified lesbian activist" who now consider themselves polygamists.
The lawsuit states, "The Plaintiffs object to self-identified transgenders exploiting the state's endorsement of their religious ideology in an government endorsed effort to brainwash and indoctrinate minors to a religious worldviews on sex, faith, truth, gender, morality, and marriage in a manner that excessively entangles the government with the religion of postmodern-western-individualistic-moral relativism — referred to mainly by the Plaintiffs and the United States Supreme Court as 'Secular Humanism.' By endorsing transgenderism in the manner complained of the city of Lafayette is relegating Christians to second class citizens."
The claim that letting men in drag read storybooks amounts to endorsing religion is "totally nonsensical factual and legal theory," Schwartzmann said in a telephone interview Friday.
That lawsuit should be dismissed as frivolous, library director Teresa Elberson said in legal papers filed Oct. 30. It was brought to delay and harass the library, court, judges, "and any person who does not believe in what Plaintiffs claim to be the 'truth,'" the document said.
Neither Elberson nor her attorney, Tammy Parker Pratt, could immediately be reached for comment Friday. Pratt's office closed at noon Friday, and she did not respond to an email. There was no response to repeated messages to the library's administrative office voicemail.
"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," Robinson said in the ACLU news release.
The original plans for a Drag Queen Story Hour were made by members of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity of "gay, bisexual and progressive men." They planned to read books to children between ages 3 and 6.
Interest was so high that it was moved to an auditorium at South Louisiana Community College. However, the college later announced that it could not hold the event because state budget policy kept it from increasing security to handle the expected large crowd and demonstrators.
Libraries and book stores across the country have held similar programs featuring men in drag telling stories, and some have drawn protests.