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Kerrigan Trautsch was 17 years old and was a page at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library in Wisconsin when she helped put together a Pride exhibit for June. On the 17th, Republican congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden, 51, came to the library and protested that the children’s book exhibition should be dismantled.

Trautsch was in a back room when she raised a voice in the main area of ​​the library. When she came out to investigate, she saw Van Orden furiously questioning the display, calling the books “gross” and claiming taxpayers shouldn’t have to see them. He wanted to know who had set up the display to “teach them a lesson”. Trautsch, who identifies herself as part of the LGBTQ community, was too intimidated to admit it was her.

While he objected to the overall representation, he was particularly upset about the inclusion of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a Last Week Tonight book starring John Oliver that parodied Mike Pence’s wife and daughter’s book about their pet rabbits. In this version, Marlon falls in love with another boy rabbit. Proceeds from the book will go to The Trevor Project and AIDS United.

Van Orden described the book as “historically inaccurate” in a written concern: “The book claims Mike Pence was Vice President (2017) prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). This book is a clear attempt to portray Republicans as non-inclusive. ”He also called it“ propaganda ”.

In response to Van Orden’s allegations of historical inaccuracies, Library Director Nancy Ashmore said, “He’s absolutely right, it’s not factual. But it shouldn’t be. It’s fiction. “

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Trautch described Van Orden’s complaints as “loud,” “aggressive,” and “threatening,” including shouting and shoving around books. When she tried to suggest LGBTQ adult books, he told her, “Pst, you have no voice. You have no voice. ”

He proceeded to sign up for a library card and check out any books on display, leaving the display blank. While library staff feared the books might be “lost” or damaged, they were returned a week later.

After the incident, Trautsch returned home in tears and said to her parents: “I no longer feel safe at work.” The staff is mostly women and she said, “I was afraid he would be outside, that there would be a crowd of people waiting for me outside, waiting for everyone else.”

Later that month, the library board meeting brought further protests against the display, including a pastor who claimed the display “promotes the gay agenda that is sinful, deviant and harmful.”

Krautsch expressed her disappointment about the homophobia of her own community members in this meeting: “[T]I am told that I am a shame, that I am disgusting. … I checked out your books yesterday, but today they want to put me at the stake. “

When Krautch discovered that Van Orden was a politician, she spurred them on to action. She met with Democratic Congressman Ron Kind and campaigned for LGBTQ policies, including more protection for transgender workers and the ability for gay men to donate blood. Van Orden will be launched in 2022, but Kind will not.

To Van Orden, Krautsch says: “If he cannot deal with the new generation of voters by telling them to be quiet, that we have no vote, I want him to know: I can vote now.”

The Trump-backed candidate was present at the January 6 uprising but claims he was there to protest peacefully and did not participate in the violence or occupation. He issued a statement stating, “I clearly support equal rights for all Americans. That includes, of course, our fellow citizens who are members of the LGBTQ + community. ”He says any claims to the contrary are divisive:“ It’s 2021 and that shouldn’t need to be said, but there are people who like us as Americans for political reasons continue to split. I will not let them worsen the relationships we have as citizens. “

Despite complaints from Van Orden and others, the library stands by its commitment to all of its customers, including LGBTQ guests, and its freedom of reading. They also received emails and calls from people who supported the display.

Ashmore is committed to not only continuing to sell Pride displays, but also to expand them: “The display is growing every year because we get more and more materials. It just keeps getting bigger. It’s something we do every year and we intend to keep doing it. “

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