Gov. Kathy Hochul is launching an investigation following reports that the Smithtown Library Board of Trustees voted to pull LGBTQ materials from the children’s section at four branches – during Pride month.
“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,” the governor said.
Hochul likened the policy to a Florida law restricting the discussion of LGBTQ issues with very young school children.
“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,” Hochul said in the Thursday press release.
The move – which reportedly included removing LGBTQ books from displays in the children’s section – also earned Smithtown libraries a rebuke from the New York Library Association.
“This ban of any displays related to Pride sets a dangerous precedent for libraries across the state because it normalizes the victimization of LGBTQ+ youth in their schools and in their communities, which has dire consequences,” reads a statement from the association.
A representative of the Board did not respond to a request for comment.
The Board appeared to be having second thoughts on the matter just a few days after approving the policy at its June 21 meeting.
An emergency board meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. to consider reversing the policy, according to a meeting agenda posted on the Board website.
Pride-related displays would be returned to library branches until at least July 15, with librarians having the final say on their eventual removal, according to the agenda, if the motion gets implemented.