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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 1, 2005

Two gay papers challenged in Upper Arlington library

Upper Arlington, Ohio--Five residents broadsided the board of directors of the Upper Arlington Public Library on June 14 by calling for the removal of two LGBT newspapers from the lobby.

Gay People�s Chronicle and Outlook Weekly are the targets of the protest.

Mark Bloom, one of the people calling for the papers to be ejected from the public facility, insisted that he was not homophobic, but that having photos of same-sex couples kissing on the cover of one paper and a shirtless man in a leather harness on another were inappropriate in an area where children could see them.

Tim Rankin, an Upper Arlington city council member and president of the Columbus suburb�s Republican club, advocated removing all materials from the library that he said were sexually-oriented, specifically mentioning Maxim magazine and the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.

�I would feel the same way about a woman and man kissing,� the Columbus Dispatch reported him saying. �This material is a ticking time bomb--there is no one standing around it, watching who picks it up.�

Bloom, however, apparently was not so eager to see the bikinis go.

�I enjoy provocative photography of attractive women,� he told the Upper Arlington News. �But it�s not a conversation I want to get into. I�m not a homophobe. This is just a no-brainer. These [gay] magazines have nothing to offer.�

Bloom also admitted throwing out stacks of Gay People�s Chronicle and Outlook Weekly, and said he had his small children help him. The Upper Arlington law director opined that since they are free papers, the action is legal. However, both papers have statements in their mastheads restricting people to taking limited numbers of copies for the purpose of reading them, and declaring that what Bloom did is theft.

Library director Ann Moore concurred that the papers were unsupervised, but noted that public opinion prefers them that way.

�All of the free papers that we get are put into a main area just inside the building,� she said. �People like them there, but we don�t have staff there monitoring what�s happening.�

�I think that many, many people come here and pick up those papers, and some people come here just to pick up the papers,� she continued, �and I think we would have a lot of angry people if we said, �We�re going to get rid of all of these papers�.�

Current library rules mandate equal access to all such publications, so the library would not be able to pull one publication and leave other similar publications. Moore does not believe the board is likely to change that.

�I think that my board believes in the Library Bill of Rights, which talks about information being available for everyone, and I would be very surprised if they would vote to remove two publications and nothing else,� Moore said.

Edele Passalacqua, an attorney who works with the Gay People�s Chronicle, is unsure about criminal action against Bloom after his admission that he has repeatedly thrown out papers, but believes civil action is appropriate.

�Certainly, we can sue him for damages, and so can the advertisers,� she said. �They are paying to be in the publication, and he is preventing it from getting to their target market.�

�We can get an injunction against him doing it again,� she also noted.

�Unfortunately, our damages are incalculable,� Passalacqua opined. �How can you put a price on it? I might at some time buy insurance from an agent I see advertised in the newspaper.�

Despite Bloom�s and Rankin�s claims to the contrary, Passalacqua sees homophobia as the prime motivating factor in the protest.

�Let�s face it, the Gay People�s Chronicle is not offensive. There are far worse items out there,� she said. �Let�s assume Mr. Bloom is opposed to stem cell research, and the New England Journal of Medicine runs an article on the benefits of stem cell research, does he go in and snag the copy off the shelf?�

�Where does it stop? Do you remember Ray Bradbury�s Fahrenheit 451?� she asked.

Director Moore said the issue will be discussed at length at the next library board meeting, and she hoped for a large, well-balanced turn-out.

�At the last meeting, the board just heard one side of the issue,� Moore noted.

The next meeting will be at the main branch of the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road, next Thursday, July 7 at 5 pm in the Friends Theater.

 

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