ACLU of Georgia Sues Library Over Ban on Gay Newspaper

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
October 2, 2002 12:00 am

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SAVANNAH, GA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia today filed a federal lawsuit against the Vidalia Public Library for barring a Lesbian and Gay community newspaper from the library’s free display table after a librarian cited “”religious issues, gays versus Christians.””

“”A library should be a place where free speech is supported,”” said Gerry Weber, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “”Someone needs to check out a copy of the Constitution from the Vidalia Public Library and read it.””

According to the ACLU complaint, Ronald Marcus, editor and publisher of the “”Gay Guardian,”” took copies of his community newspaper to the Vidalia Public Library last February and placed them on the display tables designated for free materials. A few days later Marcus was contacted by a reader of the newspaper and told that the library was out of copies of the publication.

Marcus returned to the library with additional copies of the newspaper. However, Head Librarian Dusty Gres informed Marcus that he could no longer leave his newspapers on the table because she had received complaints about the publication from patrons. Marcus then contacted the police. A police officer spoke with Gres, who said it was not a police matter, but “”a religious issue, gays versus Christians.”” The officer agreed with Gres and relied that to Marcus.

“”I was stunned when the library told me I couldn’t place my newspapers on their display table,”” said Marcus. “”I don’t think a librarian should be able to impose censorship or restrict information based on her private religious views.””

The ACLU is seeking an order allowing the newspaper to return to the Vidalia Public Library and all libraries in the Ohoopee Regional Library System..

In the process of shutting its doors to the “”Gay Guardian,”” the Ohoopee Regional Library System has now excluded all free publications. But as the ACLU argued in legal papers, “”the library’s subterfuge in closing their designated open forum in response to ‘the controversy’ and ‘complaints’ about the newspaper’s content”” still constitutes a violation of free speech rights.

“”When the government suppresses views that it disagrees with, we should all be upset, gay or straight,”” said Marcus. “”It is completely un-American.””

The ACLU complaint is online at: /node/35013

A memorandum in support of the plaintiff is online at: /node/35014

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