Federal judge closes book on Houston’s drag queen story hour lawsuit by conservatives
A federal judge has closed the book on a lawsuit targeting Houston’s mayor and chief librarian for allowing a story hour at a public library branch hosted by drag queens.
Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal issued her final ruling in the case Thursday just 10 weeks after it was filed last fall. The judge granted the city’s request to terminate the case, stating that court did not have jurisdiction because the conservative Christian men who filed the lawsuit did not have standing to sue and they failed to establish that the freedom of religion clause had been violated by the storytellers.
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The city attorney declined to comment about the ruling, and both the mayor’s office and the city librarian did not respond to a request for comment.
But the trio of conservative Christian community activists who remain involved in the lawsuit are joyful to have the case out of Rosenthal’s hands, according to Tex Christopher, the lead plaintiff in the case, who fought the city’s HERO ordinance protecting LGBTQ rights and a proposed robot brothel.
“This speeds things along for us, we’re excited,” Christopher said, adding he and other plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling. “We knew that she wasn’t going to give it a fair shake because this whole case is all entwined with her.”
Christopher and the others asked Rosenthal to recuse herself based on their theory that she was biased because her mother was a librarian the family has donated money to the library.
Christopher’s lawyer, Eric Dick, said he thinks Rosenthal’s temperament didn’t fit the case.
“She wasn’t interested in the arguments we made,” he said. But he believes other judges at the appellate level may be.
The activists contended that program where drag queens read books at the Montrose library violated the freedom of religion of library patrons. They argued in court documents that drag queens and transgender storytellers would indoctrinate children to believe in another religion, which the suit identifies as Secular Humanism. The activists believe the storytellers would groom children at the event to become transgender.
A similar civil rights challenge is pending in federal court in Lafayette, Louisiana. The judge in that case ordered the story time to cease while the case is pending, prompting the ACLU to file a lawsuit demanding the library restart the drag queen event.
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The Houston library, in an earlier court filing, explained its stance on hosting the story hour.
“Throughout their history, American public libraries have been on the front lines of promoting inclusivity and dispelling intolerance. The Houston Public Library is committed to celebrating the diverse and culturally rich communities here in Houston through a broad array of programs and resources we offer. All our programs are free, open to the public, and accessible by choice,” the legal filing stated.
Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.