By Erica C. Barnett
The Gender Justice League has barred the Seattle Public Library from participating in the Trans Pride event on Friday, June 23, after the library decided to rent a large auditorium at the downtown library to former child star Kirk Cameron, a conservative activist who is touring to promote his latest “traditional family values” picture book.
Responding to PubliCola’s questions about the cancellation, Gender Justice League Executive Director Danni Askini said the decision wasn’t just about Cameron’s appearance, but a response to a longstanding pattern of “deeply problematic behavior by the Library toward Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse People,” such as denying a trans man access to a restroom in 2017 and renting the auditorium to a group that advocates against trans women’s rights two years later.
“We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.”—Chief Librarian Tom Fay
“We look forward to the City Librarian, the Library, and the City of Seattle taking this opportunity to reflect on the harm that platforming hate groups have on our community, at a time when there have been 450+ anti-trans laws, including calls to remove trans youth from their families, banning constitutionally protected healthcare, creating felonies for using restrooms with minors, and outlawing all forms of gender affirming care,” Askini said. “We absolutely refuse to allow government entities that platform hate mongers into our sacred, holy, and inviolable space,” she added.
The library has maintained that it has the legal obligation to rent its rooms to anyone who applies, regardless of their views, and that to make judgment calls about who uses their facilities would amount to government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment,” as well as “intellectual freedom.”
Cameron has said that public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, that being gay is “unnatural” and “destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization, that women who have abortions are “murderers,” and that his book tour offers a “wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”
Cameron released his latest children’s book, “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” to coincide with the first day of Pride Month because, as he told the Washington Times, “When you have an entire nation setting aside a month to celebrate something as dangerous as pride, I feel it’s my responsibility to hold up the truth of humility so kids can have a chance.”
In a letter to library staff, SPL Chief Librarian Tom Fay said he understood and shared the Gender Justice League’s “concerns” about the anti-trans laws that are proliferating around the country in response to the efforts of prominent right-wing activists like Cameron.
“Library leadership will continue to discuss and investigate options for handling meeting room requests from groups outside of our community that strain the community relationships we have worked hard to build and that strain our limited publicly-funded resources,” Fay wrote. “We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.” However, his proposal boiled down to a “facilitated discussion” with trans and queer library staffers, rather than a change in policy.
In a public interview for the chief librarian position last year, Fay said the library had the “legalistic” obligation to rent its rooms to any person or group, and suggested in order to “at least state where we’re at on an issue without being so neutral,” the library could say that it “in no way endorses this particular group.”
A library spokesperson was unable to respond to a request for comment on Thursday; we will update this post when we hear back.