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Republicans want to defund public libraries with drag story hours

This bill comes to us from Minnesota Republican reps Glenn Gruenhagen, Sondra Erickson, Eric Lucero, John Poston, and Sandy Layman.

This bill comes to us from Minnesota Republican reps Glenn Gruenhagen, Sondra Erickson, Eric Lucero, John Poston, and Sandy Layman. Madeline Happold, Star Tribune

If you’ve been to one of the Hennepin County Library system’s drag story hours, you know why it’s been a hit for the past few years.

Kids love hanging out with sparkly, spunky characters, and there’s nothing sparklier or spunkier than drag. Adults, meanwhile, love showing their kids it’s okay to be different, creative, colorful, and fun.

But even though the program is wildly popular, it has its opponents, and they’ve used every tool at their disposal to get rid of it. That includes a deluge of mean (and often misinformed) internet comments, harassing calls to library staff, and even one patron sneaking crotch shots of a performer while they were trying to pick a book up off the floor.

But the latest onslaught comes from the Capitol, in the form of a proposed bill called HF 4323. Its co-authors – five Republican lawmakers: Reps. Glenn Gruenhagen (Glencoe), Sondra Erickson (Princeton), Eric Lucero (Dayton), John Poston (Lake Shore), and Sandy Layman (Cohasset) – want to cut aid to public libraries that host these events “by 100 percent.” The bill was introduced to the Education Finance Division on Monday.

None of the authors responded to interview requests, so it’s hard to say exactly why they’re choosing to pick on drag story hour, but if you’ve been following the internet fracas, it’s easy enough to guess.

There’s a perception, especially among conservatives, that queerness is somehow inappropriate for children, and that drag queens are more likely to be overtly sexual, even predatory. The same excuses have been baselessly lobbed at gay and trans folks for decades.

Another Minnesotan Republican rep, Mary Franson (Alexandria), relied heavily on that argument in her letter to the Perham Focus in November. She called it “outrageous” that “publicly funded institutions would put on such programming.” (This is the same person who called an anti-bullying bill designed to protect queer and trans kids an “attack on the Bible and conservative Christians.”)

Lucero—known for, among other things, cryptically claiming that diverse sexual orientations and gender identities are “not biology”—posted about the bill on Facebook on Tuesday, and a lot of the commenters seemed to agree. They called the performers “disgusting” and thanked Lucero for “standing up against the indoctrination of our children.”

“Stand strong, don’t giv,e into SATANIC force’s [sic] and people!” one commenter said.

It’s not all applause. According to Lucero’s post, ever since they introduced the bill, they started receiving “hate email” which “continued throughout the evening and all night long.”

Most speculators on Twitter are just wearily wondering why this is the hill these legislators chose to die on.

The proposal's not likely to go anywhere in the Democratically controlled House. Some observers are dismissing it as a minor publicity stunt, or some lip service to the reps’ conservative base with the 2020 election coming up.

But that lip service still comes at a cost. Part of the point of drag story hour is to create a kinder world for queer and trans kids, who may get the chance to see themselves in someone else for the first time at one of these events. Every time it’s thrown under the bus, a lot of people in the LGBTQ community are thrown under, too.

For more on that, here’s some vintage Gruenhagen from 2013, when he called being gay an “unhealthy, sexual addiction” that could be cured with therapy.