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Man fired for anti-LGBTQ tirade starts year-long battle against tiny library Pride display

November ‎7, ‎2019 Santa Cruz, California - Various books by different authors for sale at Bookshop Santa Cruz
Photo: Shutterstock

Last year, John Labriola lost his job with Miami-Dade County in Florida when he wrote a screed calling gay and transgender people “abominations” and used slurs.

Months after getting fired, he saw a small Pride display at a Citrus County library. It was a metal cart with three shelves that had a few books LGBTQ people might be interested in and some rainbow stars and hearts taped to it.

Related: A Christian conservative burned four LGBTQ library books to protest equality

And that’s when Labriola started a year-long crusade against the library that involved getting numerous conservatives in the community appointed to the library’s advisory board to stop “LGBT indoctrination in the libraries” and to warn people about “the dangers of those lifestyles.”

He started making petitions and writing blog posts on his site, the Citrus Crusader. He attended county commission meetings, trying to get the library to be forced to remove the display.

“Citrus County’s libraries have been peddling LGBT propaganda during the month of June in celebration of ‘Gay Pride Month,’ with rainbow flag displays featuring books and slogans promoting homosexuality and gender dysphoria,” a January 2022 blog post by Labriola reads. A guest post on the blog says it’s a “warning from Sodom and Gomorrah,” which claimed that there’s scientific evidence that God destroyed those cities, “proving the Bible.”

Labriola, a member of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Mass Resistance, then got people to apply to be on the library advisory board, which doesn’t actually have any power over displays in the libraries.

Five of the nine members were up for replacement last month, and the county said that it was the first time they ever received so many applications for those positions.

Margaret Hampton was one of those people who applied because of the metal cart.

“Libraries are not for promotion of political or sexual agendas,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “They are publicly funded and they’re for educational purposes.”

She said that the display would “indoctrinate” children – likely meaning that the books would turn them LGBTQ – even though the display wasn’t even in the children’s section of the library. Still, she thought the fact that a child might see it at all was enough of a reason to get involved in the entire library system and make LGBTQ people feel less welcome in the area.

Over three dozen people applied for the positions out of concern about the small Pride display. None of those people got appointed.

“We have a candle,” said County Commissioner Holly Davis (R), one of the county commissioners who voted to keep the previous library advisory board members instead of picking some of the challengers. “We have this tiny little flickering candle in our library system for the folks who are LGBTQ in this community. You called a five-alarm fire.”

Labriola and his followers have been attacking the Republican commissioners, calling for a boycott of the businesses that are members of the county Chamber of Commerce because the head of the county Chamber of Commerce, Josh Wooten, said that concern over the metal cart was overblown.

Even though this fight started last year, well before Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law passed, Labriola said that the law validates their anger.

“All across the country parents and citizens are mobilizing against the rampant LGBT indoctrination of children,” he said. “And Florida has been leading the way.”

The library isn’t putting up its Pride display this year. In fact, library director Eric Head agreed that they would take a “cooling off period” because of all the controversy Labriola stirred up.

But Labriola is already planning his next protest of a board meeting where library policies will be discussed.

“I think they see Citrus County as a vulnerable little place,” said library board member Neale Brennan, who worries that Labriola and his followers are going to demand that books be banned.

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