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Citizens take to podium to oppose commissioners on Pride Month display

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Amanda Waldman, left, and the crowd wait their turn to speak in response to the county commissioners comments about the Pride Month display at the James V. Brown Library.

One by one they came forward to the podium at the Lycoming County commissioners’ meeting room Tuesday expressing opposition to the suggestion that some half-dozen books be removed from a display at the James V. Brown Library.

Commissioners Scott Metzger and Tony Mussare, who called for relocation of the books to shelves out of the view of children, came under fire from more than two dozen people who packed the first floor room of Executive Plaza.

The emotionally charged meeting, which ran more than four hours, included remarks from a handful of people who supported removing the books as well.

Alison Rupert, of Penn Township, said all children need to know they are valuable members of society, but the call for the display to be removed sets a community back.

“”No child should ever be made to feel they are unacceptable,” she said.

Amanda Waldman said the two commissioners were wrong to say that the books were being used to indoctrinate children into alternative lifestyles or choices.

“You say you weren’t discriminating, but that’s exactly what you were expressing,” she said.

She said she realizes everyone has their personal beliefs on issues.

“Unfortunately, the path you chose was divisive,” she added.

Bob Wallace, a retired pastor, noted that his late son, who was gay, felt compelled to leave Lycoming County due to discrimination.

Wallace said he went ahead and read the books in question and found them much to his liking.

“They are great books,” he said. “We have a great county here. Let’s make it better.”

Fay Moore, 15, who identifies as gay, told commissioners they need to be careful of the words they use.

“When I was 11 years old I had suicidal thoughts,” she said. “I tried to take my life.”

She said instead of doing silly teenage activities, she decided to show up at the meeting to address the commissioners.

Elizabeth Downey said she was raised to believe that people should love one another.

She said her hope was that commissioners would not again make inflammatory statements.

“I would ask you to take a keep breath before you make remarks like that,” she said.

Mary Sieminski, of Fairfield Township, said removing books deemed objectionable is no way to help young people.

The former college librarian said libraries are committed to informing people on all issues and to challenge censorship.

“Reading a book about a gay or transgender person will not make them that way,” she said.

She warned that Nazi Germany demonized minorities — including homosexuals.

Mary Wright, of Williamsport, said books considering sexual identity should never be hidden.

Jennifer Lange said, “Kids are not too young to know who they are.”

A tearful McKenna Long, of Hughesville, said she knows from experience that Lycoming County is not a safe place for those who are different.

She said the books are not about sex.

“Let kids be kids and have access to these books,” she said.

Linda Morris, of Williamsport, said she felt the books in no way are meant to indoctrinate children.

“The library is meant to serve all the people. Education needs to start at a young age,” she said.

A handful of people indicated they supported having the books removed from the display.

Brad Young, of Linden, said he can recall a time when gays were most certainly discriminated against and even beaten.

He said he accepts gays and has them at this business.

However, he said has a problem when the gay agenda is being “forced upon us.”

“I am angry when it is pushed on our children constantly,” he added.

To which Wallace angrily responded: “That’s why my son left here, because of guys like you.”

Don Peters told Metzger and Mussare that he appreciated them for taking a stand on the issue.

He said he wondered if the library would have considered other public displays of books on such issues as the Second Amendment or heterosexuality.

“You’ve made the right decision guys,” he said.

Michelle Hazle told commissioners she did not want to have conversations with her grandchild about LGBTQ issues.

“Jesus preaches a man is a man and a woman is a woman,” she said.

Richard Houser, of Loyalsock Township, said he felt that “some things aren’t appropriate for children.”

He said getting the to the truth about issues can be difficult.

He also said there is simply too much animosity among people in society and called for unity.

“We have to get back to cohesion,” he said.

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