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Letter to ALA from OLOS on Gay and Lesbian Rights

The following eloquent letter to ALA comes from the Office of Literacy and Outreach Services (also by way of the Council list):


To: Mr. Fiels, Ms. Hayden, Ms. Brey, Ms. Grady, and Ms. Sheketoff:

The Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services urges ALA and ALA-APA to take a public stand against discriminatory philosophy and treatment of gay and lesbian employees. We believe that such policies are in opposition to not just one but various of ALA’s priorities and principals. It goes against Equity, Diversity, and Intellectual Freedom.

The proposed new interpretation by the new Federal Special Counsel would have a deleterious effect on federal gay and lesbian librarians and library workers, but if implemented its effects would go even beyond that. It would result in a rollback of their rights. It would also encourage further discrimination in other aspects of life towards glbt individuals and groups.

As we have seen repeatedly in the history of this county, legal decisions that make distinctions to discriminate often give elements in the general public a license to not only discriminate, but sometimes even to carry out acts of violence. Perhaps the most extreme and powerful example of this is the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the “absurd” separate but equal doctrine. History has shown that the epidemic lynchings that occurred in the decades following this decision were not coincidental. Likewise, legislation that sets up English as the official language has too often resulted in employees and citizens being discriminated for their use of languages other than English. So too are legal decisions that allow for unfavorable treatment of gay and lesbian people in one arena, likely to foster widespread mistreatment in many other arenas.

ALA has a duty to enter into the public debates on these issues and to advocate for greater freedoms for the publics that we serve and the employees who are our members, so that there is true equity and outreach on the part of the American Library Association.

Isabel Espinal
Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

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