Gov. Kathy Hochul has directed the New York State Division of Human Rights to investigate the Smithtown Library Board after it passed a resolution in a vote of 4-2 Tuesday to remove books and decorations related to LGBTQ+ Pride Month from displays in its children’s sections.
Smithtown Library’s Board of Trustees oversees four libraries in the Town of Smithtown: the Commack, Kings Park, Nesconset, and Smithtown libraries. In a memo, the board told the heads of each library to remove LGBTQ-related books from children’s room displays.
“Public places are prohibited by law from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone – and particularly our state’s young people – deserves to feel welcome at the library. For many LGBTQ+ kids, libraries are a place of refuge and information where they can be welcomed and affirmed for who they are,” Hochul said in a statement. “We will not tolerate a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ philosophy taking root in our state. I look forward to seeing the Division of Human Rights take prompt action to investigate these reports.”
The decision was met with backlash not only from the governor but from local politicians, community members, and world-famous, bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult, a Nesconset native who wrote in a social media post that her first job was as a page for the Smithtown Library system.
“To see this memo disgusts me and makes me reevaluate an institution that I have praised for being formative in my life as an author,” Picoult wrote. “Love is love… and representation matters.”
For many LGBTQ+ kids, libraries are one of the few spaces where they can be welcomed and affirmed for who they are.
Our public spaces should be accepting our young people — not rejecting them.
To LGBTQ+ New Yorkers: We stand with you, we support you, & you are welcome here. https://t.co/x6w1q8o3El
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) June 22, 2022
The Smithtown Library Board seemed to double down on Wednesday with a statement reiterating that the passed motion does not remove any books from its collections but does remove the children’s sections’ Pride displays. Then on Thursday, reports said that the library board would hold an emergency meeting to discuss the matter at 6:30 p.m.
“Please understand that all books on this subject are still part of the library’s children’s collection and can be checked out by anyone wishing to do so,” the statement says. “These titles have not been removed from the collection. The library continues to display Pride month displays in our teen and adult areas.”
The library system originally released a memo to its building heads to “remove all Pride displays from all of our children’s rooms.” A screenshot of the memo has been widely shared on social media.
Many community members and advocates urged others to write to the board and attend the its July 19 meeting to express their dismay. LGBT Network Director Dr. David Kilmnick wrote in an email blast that the move is an “attack on the LGBT community, our families, and our youth.”
“Make no mistake about it, this is an act of hate and is harmful for our LGBTQ youth who struggle to find support and affirmation while they come out,” Kilmnick wrote.