In making no statement on Drag Queen Story Time, the council sent a mixed message

Photos by Travis Gauthier
Tyler Alexander, a UL student who will be a reader for DQST, talked of his struggles as a gay man in a devout Baptist family, saying he once attempted to end his own life.

The gist: Six of nine City-Parish Council members abstained from voting on a politically pointed resolution denouncing the public library’s planned Drag Queen Story Time. That means the council takes no official position on a combustible wedge issue. For those opposed to the event, an abstention is the same as officially supporting it. But abstention falls well short of an official demonstration of support for the LGBTQ community among Lafayette’s elected leadership.

▸ The intent was clear: The resolution would not have affected plans for the Oct. 6 event featuring drag queens from a UL fraternity reading books about tolerance and inclusion to children. In drafting the non-binding resolution, William Theriot and Jared Bellard’s apparent intent was nakedly cynical: trap councilmen on a wedge issue as fodder for future politicking. That much was spelled out by conservative activist Michael Lunsford in a recent article in The Hayride. Any changes for the event are up to the library staff, as the council has no direct control over library programming. Theriot at one point seemed intrigued at the notion of removing members of the library’s board of control, which the council appoints (the mayor appoints one member). That the council had such power was revealed in an exchange with the city-parish attorney.

Not one council member cast a vote against the resolution, though Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux did spark some constructive dialogue on Facebook ahead of the meeting, asking churches why they would allow LGBTQ through their church door but not the library door. Councilwoman Nanette Cook voted for the resolution, joining Bellard and Theriot.

▸ “I was not elected to be an arbiter of either community standards or family values,” Councilman Bruce Conque says in a statement. “By abstaining I made a statement that I am refusing to be drawn down what could be a slippery slope.”

“Government should know its role and its place, and it’s most certainly not to step in and overshadow the role of parents who know what’s best and appropriate for their children,” says Councilwoman Liz Hebert in a prepared statement.

In the end: The episode is likely a win for opponents of DQST. Lafayette Citizens Against Taxes, a page operated in part by Lunsford, was quick to call the abstentions “official approval status” of the DQST event shortly after the vote. A majority of the more than 70 speakers at the council meeting over a five-hour span registered vehement opposition to the event, marshaling at times disturbing sentiments, among them that DQST opens the door to jihadis, that the event will result in bomb making classes and promotion of illicit drug experimentation, and that it is part of normalizing pedophilia.

The Rev. Zach Sasser of First Presbyterian Church in Lafayette spoke of God’s love for members of the LGBTQ community, delivering a hopeful message that DQST is an opportunity to reduce bullying and violence suffered by this segment of our community. Read his inspirational, post-meeting message here

There were moving words from some supporters, like the Rev. Zach Sasser, as well as gut-wrenching moments during the comment period. One of the fraternity members who will participate in the reading, Tyler Alexander, spoke of the despair he has felt struggling with acceptance from a devout Baptist family, saying he once attempted suicide (around the 2:05 mark). “I failed, thankfully, because now I’m here today for this,” he said. “We need to show people, our young youth, that we accept them and we love them, or else they might succeed in what I failed. What would you do, because I know my mother cried her heart out. I’m sure you would, too.” Alexander then invited the adults opposing the event to hear him read. “And maybe you could accept something you never thought you could before. I hope you do. I hope you come.”

And that was not compelling enough to win a single vote. — Additional reporting by Julissa Lopez

About the Author

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper industry in Lafayette for almost three decades.

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