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Resolution aids speech, community wishes

All’s well that ends well for both drag queens and communities wishing to use government to promote healthy lifestyles for children.

Last year, controversy arose when the Lafayette Public Library scheduled a “Drag Queen Story Time.” Males dressed in drag would read to children as part of a program put on by the library.

When the advertising started, it became abundantly clear that the community didn’t want a government agency backing such an event. Run by board members appointed by local government officials, responding to constituents they pressured the library into revoking the invitation to perform at the main branch, which library officials described as unable to accommodate the anticipated crowd. A subsequent attempt to relocate it to occur on the scheduled date at a nearby community college failed when the institution said it could not guarantee adequate security.

Thus, the library system’s Board of Control postponed the event, but did not withdraw its sponsorship. It claimed it had to hold off because of a lawsuit filed by opponents of the event, and wanted to compromise by letting the group behind the event to reserve a meeting room, but not to propagate the material it originally wished: i.e., reading stories that, under the guise of promoting tolerance, also would convey a message that society should accept and protect expression of homosexual activity as a lifestyle.

That brought about a countersuit joined by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, calling the proposed restriction viewpoint discrimination. Finally, all parties worked out an agreement that the group could reserve a room as could any other, but that the library would not sponsor officially the activity.

This compromise strikes the right balance and makes for good constitutional jurisprudence. If people want to get together to engage in an activity that neither breaks the law nor advocates behaving violently in a way that does, if government permits any interest to do so, it must permit all that conform to these guidelines.

At the same time, government does not have to give its imprimatur to any such events by spending taxpayer dollars in promoting it. This seems especially wise in the case of showcasing something that might encourage children to pursue harmful behavior to themselves, as this turns government into subsidizing this form of expressions as an option for youth to emulate.

Behavioral science notes this conveys risks. Research consistently demonstrates a disproportionate incidence between a person of a biological gender, including children, who wish to dress in raiment consistent with the opposite sex (if not conceive of themselves as that opposite sex) and mental illness, with this association unlikely a consequence of generally negative societal attitudes towards cross-dressing.

In short, by implying this behavior can’t serve as a potential sign of illness, the underlying cause of that illness may not receive the attention and treatment if necessary that it deserves. This message especially could impact negatively children, with their personalities not yet full formed.

Not all communities may act as enlightened; witness New Orleans having a similar event regularly and without fuss (not that government even must involve itself: a version of this took place in Baton Rouge at a private facility). Let’s hope others in Louisiana do if faced with a like circumstance: government protecting both free speech and children.

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