SMITHTOWN, Long Island — LGBTQ+ Pride books and signs had been on display for Pride Month at the four branches of the public library system in Smithtown. However, as of Wednesday morning, the displays had all been taken down by order of the Library Board of Trustees.
That decision sparked a widespread backlash from Gov. Kathy Hochul, the New York Library Association, LGBTQ advocates, other officials and library members. In an emergency session on Thursday evening, a majority of the Board chose to reverse their earlier decision. Now, the displays will go back up, and stay up through mid-July.
“The majority of the Board recognizes that our earlier decision was made without the time, care and due diligence that a decision of this type deserves and that it was the wrong decision,” the board wrote in a statement.
The original decision to remove the displays had some supporters. Kevin Smith, the co-founder of the conservative group Loud Majority, said that the directive made sense.
“Nobody wants the books removed from the library,” he said. “They just want it removed from the children’s section, a section made for 7-year-olds.”
Long Island’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights responded to the initial move with the launch of a plan of action. Robert Vitelli, the chief operating officer of LGBT Network, led a late-morning news conference announcing the plan.
“We want to support people in this community to run and replace these homophobic, transphobic and hateful Smithtown library board members,” he declared.
The plan also called for the creation of a school district ambassadorship program to provide support for LGBTQ+ students and allies on Long Island and in Queens.
Also joining the news conference was Jay Fried, the parent of four children, two of whom are LGBTQ+. Fried mentioned book displays.
“To see two men and an adopted child,” Fried said, “that is a lot of families in our community. So why shouldn’t they see something that represents them, that speaks to them?”
Pride displays have remained in the teen and adult sections of the libraries. In the children’s rooms, however, the displays had been removed, but the books were still available for checkout.
Smith, the leader of Loud Majority, said that the move was appropriate.
“I support gays, the whole movement,” he said, and added, “I don’t see any reason why young kids, [ages] 5 to 9, need to be talking about sex.”
However, the Pride books from the Smithtown Library that PIX11 News found did not mention sex. “A Church For All,” by Gayle E. Pitman, for example, is about a church that has many different members.
Library patron Linda Spahr and her husband Joseph Lescinski checked out “A Church For All,” as part of their response to the displays being taken down.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Spahr said, describing her reaction to the decision to remove the displays.
She added that she and her husband planned to “read [the book] to our grandchildren, read it to ourselves, read it to anybody who comes by.”
The special emergency meeting of the library board was held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.