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Ohio House Speaker criticizes Licking County Library's LGBTQ event; library cancels

Opposition that included Ohio's Republican House speaker has prompted a Licking County library to cancel an LGBTQ program for teens.
Ohio House speaker Larry Householder speaks during the Republican's response to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

NEWARK, Ohio (AP) — Opposition that included Ohio's Republican House speaker has prompted a Licking County library to cancel an LGBTQ program for teens.

The Newark Advocate reports the Friday event at the Emerson R. Miller Branch of the Licking County Library in Newark was scheduled ahead of the city's Pride festival next weekend. It was supposed to feature crafts, games, an optional tutorial on drag queen makeup and a safer sex program.

It drew criticism on social media and a letter from Rep. Larry Householder, who on Friday called the event a "stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust," saying he can assure "the taxpayers aren't interested in seeing their hard-earned dollars being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens."

"Like you, I am a strong believer in the 1st Amendment and fully support freedom of speech. And like you, I am a strong believer in our libraries. But I also believe in common sense," he wrote.

The Newark Ohio Pride Coalition responded by saying the program was privately funded.

"We appreciate Speaker Householder's concern for the use of public funding. We are also happy to share that this event is funded by an independent non-governmental grant, which was acquired by the Newark Ohio Pride Coalition," the statement read.

The Pride Coalition said the event is aimed at "celebrating the individuality of our local LGBTQ+ and allied teens in preparation for Newark Ohio Pride Festival on Saturday, June 8," and while there is an optional make-up tutorial, the primary focus was an arts and crafts project to allow teenagers to celebrate their identities.

"Second, this event also facilitates an educational, public health component in the form of a safer sex program. This portion of the program was designed with the Ohio Department of Public Health's mission (i.e. "to protect and improve the health of all Ohioans by preventing disease") in mind," the coalition wrote.

The statement concluded by asking Householder to respect the civil liberties of Newark's residents and to gather accurate facts before issuing a response.

Friday night, the Licking County Public Library said they would be canceling the event at the Emerson R. Miller Branch, saying they regret the "enormous amount of misinformation that has occurred the last two days."

The Delaware County Library moved a teen "Drag 101" event this week following hostile and threatening phone calls.