Hochul orders investigation into Smithtown Library’s ban on Pride books

A controversial decision by a Long Island bookstore to ban pride displays and pride-related books from children’s sections on its buildings sparked a massive response from advocates, a strong statement by the governor, as well as an emergency last-minute board meeting. via Zoom.

On Tuesday, the Smithtown Library Board of Trustees approved a 4-2 vote on “a proposal to remove all Pride Displays, as well as remove all books on the same subject on display, from all children’s departments on all Smithtown Library buildings.”

The move — which comes as LGBTQ Pride celebrations kick off in cities across the country — has been condemned by several prominent voices, including the New York Library Association. best-selling writer and former librarian Jodi Picoult, who said she was “disgusted by the trustees who voted for this”; and Governor Hochhol, who instructed the state’s human rights department to “initiate an immediate investigation” into the reports.

“Public spaces are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone — especially young people in our state — deserves to feel welcome in the library,” Hochhol told the Daily News in a statement, saying she was “horrified” by the reports.

“For many LGBTQ+ children, libraries are a place of refuge and information where they can be welcomed and their identity confirmed,” she said. And the governor added, New York “will not tolerate the ‘don’t say jay’ philosophy,” referring to a recent signature Florida Law Ban schools for discussing LGBT issues with younger children.

The library did not respond to a request for comment by The News.

The decision also prompted immediate action by the LGBT Network, a non-profit organization that campaigns for the rights of gays and their families in Queens and Long Island, which criticized the library’s “bigotry move” and announced targeted measures to protect local LGBTQ youth.

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“It’s unrealistic,” David Kilmink, the organization’s president and CEO, told The News. “It’s as if we’re in the Bible Belt,” he added, speaking of the “dangerous rhetoric and actions people take, right here in the backyard of our home in Queens and Long Island.”

Late Thursday morning, the organization held a press conference to explain how it plans to act against the library’s “really scary” decision, which Kilmnik referred to as an “attack on LGBT youth in our community.”

The actions, which were scheduled to be released in the fall, will be officially announced on Monday at o’clock virtual town hall After the library’s decision forced the group to “hurry up and speed it up.”

It involves creating “LGBT Network Ambassadors” in each school district – parents, students, teachers and other community members who will work to ensure that the LGBTQ curriculum is taught “and that our history is recognized, represented, and not erased.”

With short- and long-term thinking, the LGBT network will also launch a “leadership and coaching academy,” according to Kelmenek. The effort will encourage parents and concerned members of the community to run for their local school boards, “and now their library board seats as well.”

Robert Vitelli, the group’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, who was at the press conference Thursday morning, told The News that the library’s move was “completely unexpected” noting that removing such books was an “act of hate.” [designed] To keep gay guys in the closet [a community that is] Already underrepresented. “

More than 400 people registered with city council in less than 12 hours, Kilmenk said.