Approximately 25 people representing the Daviess County Citizens for Decency group — the same one that tried to have drag shows removed from the RiverPark Center’s GhostLight Lounge — protested outside the Daviess County Public Library on Wednesday, voicing their displeasure the library is celebrating Pride Month and providing LGBT+ information to teenagers. Roughly 100 people showed up to counterprotest, supporting the LGBT+ community and the library’s efforts.
The library posted to Facebook on June 1 that they were celebrating “with some awesome giveaways,” noting that every week this month they would have a different “goody bag” available at the second-floor desk for teens ages 13-18.
“The goody bags are full of treats and tips to help you read with pride, plus a code that you can enter for a chance to win a free book from the library. Collect all 4 goody bags for 4 chances to win!” the post read.
DCPL also has a display of LGBT-themed books on the second floor in the teen section. A cart is stationed just outside of the teen section room and contains approximately 30 books. Two of the bookshelves inside the teen section also have Pride-themed decorations on the endcaps. One endcap has nine books, while the other has some of the items included in the goody bags.
Included in the goody bag is a QR code that can be scanned to see LGBT+ teen books. There is also an informational flyer that lets the reader know there is an LGBT+ teen group that meets at the H.L. Neblett Community Center.
DCPL Director Erin Waller sent the following prepared statement via email Wednesday afternoon:
The Daviess County Library has a mission and goals in our current board-approved Strategic Plan that calls for staff to provide programming and material that promotes diversity and inclusion for all ages. Pride is a nationally recognized observance that celebrates identity and compassion for LGBTQ+ people and their family and friends. Many organizations and businesses in Daviess County are participating in the recognition, as well as most public libraries across the U.S.
We, along with the American Library Association, are committed to defending the constitutional rights of all individuals, of all ages, as promised in the first amendment. Public library material and programming participation is self-governed and DCPL celebrates a wide range of views and interests in our collection and programming.
We invite anyone to find something here that will be beneficial for their journey through life.
Members of the Daviess County Citizens for Decency group organized a protest to take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Based on a message shared prior to the protest, the group appears to have believed the library’s board was meeting Wednesday and they were going to stay and share their concerns. However, that meeting is June 21, and group members said they’d be back next week to attend.
Members of the LGBT+ community heard about the protest and loosely organized a counter-protest of their own to take place at the same place and time.
The two groups of demonstrators started in different areas. Just after 4 p.m., a group of about 40 LGBT supporters walked down the sidewalk along Frederica Street to stand just a few feet away from six women who were protesting.
At their peaks, the group of protesters grew to about two dozen people while the counterprotesters numbered about 100.
There was minor interaction between the groups that included a few short conversations. Aside from a few brief shouts at one another (Owensboro Times did not observe any profanity, only some heavy emphasis from each side on their respective views), the demonstrations were peaceful.
Kathryn Crowe was among the first few protestors who arrived.
She said they were there to voice their concerns with “the things that are going on within the library, the books, and the displays that they have out.”
“We just really don’t want those presented to our children,” she said. “Some of the books are pretty rank, and we feel like that needs to be up to the parent to discuss that.”
Crowe said she’s not opposed to the books being in the library, but doesn’t think they should be on display.
“It’s how it’s being pushed,” Crowe said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not anything against (the LGBT community) or what they’re doing, except for the fact that they have an agenda and they’re pushing it and we know, and that’s what we’re against. It should be private.”
Cheryl Brown, there to support the LGBT community and the library’s actions, felt strongly the other way.
“No child should be limited in what they come to the public library to read … so they see people from their community reflected in books and movies and magazines. Nobody should have a right to say that they can’t have that,” she said.
Sharon Tipmore added that parents can still play a role in what their children are seeing and checking out, even if the books are on display.
“I guess I’m having trouble comprehending any of it. I was always with my children when I brought them to the library and I was with them helping them choose the books that they chose,” she said.
Tipmore said she didn’t “have a dog in this fight” but felt a responsibility “to stand up to the hate and to be an ally to people that need it.”
“I know these people (protesting), and I’m sad about the close mindedness I see in our community,” Tipmore said. “I’m so sad that our community is just divided over an issue that we should be united on. I was taught to love people. … I want to be able to support those people in whatever way I can and let them know that they are loved no matter what. I want them to be able to be who they are.”
Multiple members of the group protesting said their issue was not with the LGBT community, but with the actions they claimed are targeting children along with the fact Pride celebrations and activities are taking place in buildings funded in part by taxpayer money.
“If they want to do it in a private place, fine,” Crowe said. “But in a public place that the taxpayers are funding doesn’t seem quite fair.”
Sandy Spaetti and former Daviess County Commissioner George Wathen, both representing the group protesting, echoed those sentiments.
“We just felt like that they’re targeting children with propaganda, they’re grooming them, and we’re not OK with it, especially in a taxpayer-funded facility,” Spaetti said.
Like Crowe, Wathen said he’s not opposed to the books being in the library but doesn’t want them on display.
“The big question to me is, I do not understand why they want to go there,” he said. “I do not understand why this was such a big thing for our library board, our library administration. Why do they want to go there? … Why are they coming out with this big agenda and pushing this on our children? They need to just leave our children alone, let our children grow up, and figure all this stuff out for themselves, instead of it being thrust in front of them.”
Wathen said “if they want to have a business that sells these books and promotes and does all this stuff, have at it. But we’re paying for this with our taxes.”
Asked about the counterargument that members of the LGBT community also pay taxes and therefore should have a say in programming, Spaetti said “they do pay taxes too, but let’s just leave the controversial stuff out of it, and then none of us have a problem. Why do we need to sexualize our children with tax dollars? I don’t want the children being sexualized toward a heterosexual agenda, either. … I don’t care what religion you are, why do we need to sexualize our children?”
Wathen added, “If I owned a business, I’m not gonna come out pro-LGBTQ or anti-, because why go there and upset a bunch of people. Stay away from it.”
Cory Crick said he has been a part of the LGBT community “for a long time” and the Owensboro community for about 25 years.
Crick said it’s easy to simply not go to something if you don’t support it.
He noted that the LGBT community not only pays taxes and should be represented by shows geared toward them, but that on the flip side their tax money also goes toward programming they don’t necessarily support.
He pointed specifically to how American contemporary Christian music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman is performing at the RiverPark Center.
“We didn’t say anything about that,” Crick said. “We were fine.”
Crick said his goal has always been wanting the city to grow more, and he was proud that so many people showed up in support of the LGBT community.
“I’m pleased with the support that I see today. It’s amazing to see (people of all ages) together for one purpose, and it’s the purpose of everybody deserves love, period,” he said.
Janie Marksberry is in her first term as a County Commissioner and serves as Daviess County Fiscal Court’s liaison to the library. She posted a statement on Facebook early Wednesday afternoon, though it largely addressed the “goody bags” DCPL is giving away.
In her post, Marksberry describes how she found out about the bags, what was in them, and what information was being collected, along with some concerns she had.
Toward the end, her post read “Will they show the same interest and go to as much trouble to provide gift bags to children who want to start a Bible study or promote our vacation Bible schools, which also go on during this month? Will we get a month for Christmas as a celebration for the birth of Christ? How about Easter? Or maybe hosting a promotion for July 4th and Memorial Day to commemorate Americans dying for our freedom?”
Marksberry wrote that “When I asked Erin (Waller) if they would be this open and willing to promote a Bible study, she said ‘as long as it is inclusive to everyone.'”
Marksberry then wrote, “That seems contradictory since the current LGBTQ+ movement does not seem to be behaving in a way that appears inclusive. In fact, I find this insistence on celebrating this issue very divisive. I accept people who are LGBTQ+, I just don’t think it’s appropriate for our public library to entice our youth to celebrate it for an entire month. And entice them to give out their personal information.”
Marksberry wrote that she “heard a protest was planned at the library” but noted she had nothing to do with it and would not be attending, nor was she invited.