You’d think librarians, of all people, would understand the importance of free speech. Yet in Yolo County, California, you’d be wrong.
A librarian at the Mary L. Stephens Davis branch of the Yolo County library system finds himself at the center of a viral shitstorm, after a video went mega-viral showing him censoring and kicking out a speaker during a Moms for Liberty event for “misgendering” transgender athletes.
The discussion was about the inclusion of transgender women, who are born biologically male, in women’s-only sports, and the group was arguing that it is unfair. Offering this opinion was former collegiate athlete Sophia Lorey, who said, “Current 10 year old girls cannot live out the same dream [I had] as long as men are allowed to compete in women’s sports. So now no matter how hard girls work…”
The librarian interrupted Lorey and accused her of “misgendering” by “talking about men in women’s sports.” He then shut down the event after more references to “biological men” were made in reference to transgender women.
“I believe males and females are different, and stating that fact shouldn’t have gotten me kicked out of an event,” Lorey commented after-the-fact. “All I did was say that men are playing in women’s sports. No one should be punished for stating a biological fact.”
Some of the nation’s foremost First Amendment attorneys agree.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) just wrote a scathing letter to the Yolo County library system warning them that their actions violate the First Amendment and calling on them to make amends and rectify the situation.
“When the government hosts its own programming, it can pick and choose which speakers it wants to feature,” the letter reads. “But when it opens space such as library meeting rooms for the public to hold their own speaking events, the First Amendment applies.”
“The First Amendment restrains authorities from discriminating against speakers based on their views or forcing them to use the government’s preferred vocabulary,” FIRE adds.
This is exactly right. A public library is a government institution, forcibly funded with our tax dollars, and as a result, it is constitutionally obligated to honor our First Amendment rights. When the Yolo County library in question silenced a speaker because it disliked the way she was speaking about a contentious political issue, it violated the First Amendment rights of the group hosting the event.
Even progressives or those who otherwise support the “transgender rights” side of this debate should nonetheless reject the library’s actions in this case—unless they want their speech suppressed in public venues in areas where the local government is controlled by Republicans.
“Dialogue, not debate-rigging censorship, is the way forward,” FIRE concludes. “Yolo County Library must offer the local Moms for Liberty chapter an opportunity to reschedule its event. And the library must adhere to its First Amendment obligations going forward.”
Indeed it should. And if it fails to, Moms for Liberty should sue their ass—and win.