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March 24, 2006

Library revisits newspaper issue, but proposal is pulled

Upper Arlington, Ohio--Tensions over free LGBT publications available in this Columbus suburb�s public library reemerged as its board prepared to consider a new proposal to move the Gay People�s Chronicle and Outlook Weekly into the facility�s basement.

But, in a surprise move, new board member Brian Perera withdrew his proposal at the March 14 board meeting.

A tempest about free publications last year supposedly ended in August when the Upper Arlington Library Board voted unanimously to keep the papers.

Several residents, including Upper Arlington councilor Tim Rankin and members of the Upper Arlington Republican Club, had raised heated objections to them last summer.

At several public forums, the overwhelming response was to not censor them in any way. In a compromise, all free publications were moved from the lobby to two racks near the circulation desk where librarians and security cameras could monitor the materials.

The monitoring safeguarded against the bulk theft of the two LGBT papers. Republican Club member Mark Bloom was quoted in another newspaper saying that he removed stacks of the two papers and threw them in the trash, with his children helping him.

Last month, Bloom and others proposed that the papers be moved to the library�s basement.

Perera, who is also the Ohio Senate�s majority caucus finance director, took his seat on the board January 10. He introduced his new resolution at its February meeting, arguing that the August 2005 decision was a good beginning but that more should be done to �protect� children from the two papers.

Like last year�s forums, the library�s theater was packed to overflowing for the March 14 meeting, where the board was to vote on Perera�s proposal. But he announced that he was withdrawing his resolution.

The audience listened as Perera said that he does �oppose banning any materials� and does �not want to treat any publications differently based on sexual orientation.�

Further, he added that the previous �solution is completely adequate� and that he had �never seen any children paying attention to� the publications.

�I continue to see the current solution as the compromise solution,� he said.

Perera didn�t explain what had changed his mind.

Despite the withdrawal of the resolution, board president John Magill gave those present a chance to speak.

Most want to keep the papers

The overwhelming sentiment among the speakers was gratitude to Perera for withdrawing his resolution. Of the approximately 30 people who addressed the board, only two spoke in favor of the publications being banned or moved to the basement. They faulted the board for �turning this into a bigger issue� than they had wanted.

A woman who seemed very angry with Magill brought a scrapbook of what she viewed as objectionable clippings from the publications.

Many of the others said they had come specifically to support free speech and expressed bafflement at the re-emergence of this issue, which they felt had been adequately handled last year.

�The determination of what is appropriate for my child is up to me,� said one father, �not for the public library to decide by erecting barriers to access.�

He said that the work of Thomas Aquinas was bawdy and sexually explicit with graphic scenes and that those books were available to his daughter in the library.

Another resident said, �Thank you for seeing the folly of following through on another �compromise� leading us down the slippery path to censorship.�

Andrew Miller, a resident of Upper Arlington expecting his first child with his wife, said, �We are looking forward to many years of access.�

�If you look at most polls of youth today,� he said, �they believe in equality for homosexuals. When you relegate people to second-class citizenship, you risk leaving behind a heritage of being someone who has stepped on people�s civil rights.�

Another said she was proud of the library�s �national reputation� because �of unfettered access to materials.�

One claimed, �Pretending to put books in another room is still censorship.�

An elderly gentleman, who said he had been a resident of Upper Arlington for 43 years, was appalled at the re-visiting of the issue. He held up the library�s copy of a children�s book, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, based on a true story of two male penguins who built a nest and hatched an egg together at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

�This is where we are headed,� he said, towards banning this book as well. �This is about censorship.�

The person who followed concurred. �I wish this issue would be dropped,� he said. �Moving items to the basement is another way of restricting access, and how long before we decide to ban these or worse, burn them?�

The next man to speak said he had taken time off work to be there. �While our soldiers are fighting for our freedom in Iraq,� he argued, �some are restricting freedoms here.�

�This is a very important issue,� he said, because �it gets to the basis of who we are as Americans.�

David Harding, a resident of Upper Arlington for 54 years, said that it was his �proudest moment seeing my fellow citizens here.�

�I encourage the board not to pursue this issue any further,� he said. �It was resolved back in August.�

He warned the board that they would be �violating� their �fiduciary responsibilities as trustees because legal action was sure to follow� if these publications were banned or moved in a violation of free-speech laws.

Two other members talk about a ban

Then, in the second strange turn of events that meeting, two board members began to speak about an outright ban of Outlook from the library.

Bryce Kurfees said that he was �in disagreement on the board as to how to go through this.�

�I want to tell you why I oppose Outlook and why Outlook Weekly is so offensive to many,� he said.

�I would like it to be removed,� he added, �this publication that is dumped on our doorstep.�

He then proceeded to read from three pieces that had appeared in Outlook over the past year. He read pieces about S&M, escorting and other sexual practices. But it didn�t seem that free-speech proponents had been moved an inch.

Kurfees then said, �One of my closest friends is gay and this doesn�t speak highly of him.�

He continued with a discussion of �sexual predators in our library� and that �in those cases pornography often figures highly,� then went on to publications about Nazism and bestiality.

�Do we have the right to draw the line?� he asked. �I believe we do.�

Another board member, Charles Motil, said, �The shelving was an improvement, but as I looked back and thought about it I felt more had to be done.�

�This is not the end,� he threatened. �I am not sure if I will raise a new motion.�

He implied that like Kurfees, his main target was Outlook.

�I have nothing against saying that GPC has moved to another part of the library,� he said, implying that even if Outlook were banned, the Gay People�s Chronicle would be moved to the basement if he could have his way.

The meeting came full circle with Perera�s turnaround.

�I am not okay with going back to discussing banning publications,� he said of Kurfees� and Motil�s discussion.

�We are a fairly intelligent crowd,� he went on, �and I don�t think we should ban any publications.�

President Magill also said that he stood by the board�s� vote last August 30.

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