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Pasco's Drag Queen Story Hour goes off without protest

Stephanie Stuart, a self-proclaimed transgender drag queen, reads at an Aug. 18 Drag Queen Story Hour at the New Port Richey public library.  Courtesy Nina Borders, Pasco Pride
Stephanie Stuart, a self-proclaimed transgender drag queen, reads at an Aug. 18 Drag Queen Story Hour at the New Port Richey public library. Courtesy Nina Borders, Pasco Pride
Published Aug. 23, 2019

NEW PORT RICHEY — Organizers of a "Drag Queen Story Hour" for children held last weekend at the New Port Richey Public Library say it was a joyous time for all in attendance, especially since no protestors gathered outside.

That likely is because a group that protested previous story hour events didn't know about it. Earlier protests led Pasco Pride to move the event from a Port Richey bookstore to the New Port Richey library on Main Street.

For the second time in two weeks, the Pasco Pride event that features a drag queen reading children's books, brought passionate testimony to Tuesday's New Port Richey City Council meeting.

Two weeks it ago, organizers and proponents of the story hour urged the city to allow them to hold it in Peace Hall, the city's downtown event building next to Sims Park. But the city required them to get a special-event permit due to security concerns over intense protests at previous story hours. That prompted Pasco Pride's move to the library.

A similar story hour in St. Pete this month also drew protestors.

On Tuesday, a couple dozen opponents spoke out against the story hour at the New Port Richey council meeting. They quoted scripture, called the story hour a promotion of deviant behavior, said it encourages sexual confusion in children and expressed fears over pedophilia.

Calvary Chapel Worship Center pastor Dick Maxwell told council members that while he understood that Pasco Pride had not applied for a special-event permit at Peace Hall, he still wanted to speak against it.

"Basically, when you have somebody, a man, dressing up, even taking hormones to look like a woman, that man is acting out sexually," he said. "It might not be copulating, per se, in front of child, but he is acting out sexually."

Maxwell did not know, however, that while he and his group were focusing on the prospect of a story hour at Peace Hall, one had taken place Aug. 18 at the library next door.

The nonprofit Pasco Pride deliberately kept it under wraps as an invite-only event in a library meeting room.

"It was really our best event ever, because there were no protestors making us fear for our safety," Pasco Pride president Nina Borders said on Wednesday.

The event, which drew 37 people, operated just as it was intended, she said, a place where children have stories read to them, have snacks and play with other kids in an environment that promotes inclusivity. Pasco Pride intends to have more story hours, but has not set dates for them, she said.

The City Council made no comment in response to opponents who spoke Tuesday, but Mayor Rob Marlowe told the Tampa Bay Times the city will not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or any other factor, such as race or religion, that wants to use the city's public library. The library is a far more logical and secure venue than the city's event hall, he said.

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