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SGN decries unconstitutional censorship in Ocean Shores library

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In a state where libraries are revered as bastions of intellectual freedom and guardians of our constitutional rights to liberty and a free press, one would expect nothing less than equal treatment for all voices. However, the reality in the picturesque city of Ocean Shores paints a different picture.

Under the leadership of Ocean Shores Public Library Director Keitha Owen, the voices of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender writers have been unfairly stifled. The SGN, a publication embodying the experiences and struggles of the LGBTQ community for 50 years, has been relegated to the shadows of the library, hidden away in a back corner marked as "Local Reference Books - Library Use Only." In addition to being on a shelf just above the floor, the paper can't be seen at all when a patron is sitting in a chair nearby.

This seems like an odd turn of events, because Owen herself once told the SGN that the paper was popular among library patrons. She even requested a distribution increase. The paper had been prominently displayed at a counter in the front vestibule with the other free publications, where it belonged.

Owen's decision to marginalize the SGN comes in response to purported complaints about a single photo depicting a go-go dancer at a Gay bar buried within its pages, in the issue dated February 9, 2024. It's worth noting that these objections were based not on obscenity, libel, or any other illegality but rather on personal discomfort.

Ironically, the very photo in question illustrates recent incidents in Gay bars in Seattle that had been unjustly raided by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Control Board and issued citations, stemming from a profound misunderstanding of long-standing LGBTQ cultural norms. Even the authorities have acknowledged their overreach. Will Owen acknowledge hers and rectify the unjust treatment of the SGN?

As a librarian, Owen should champion the principles of the First Amendment, which prohibit the government from restricting free speech on the basis of its content. Yet, by discriminating against this publication, she has committed impermissible censorship. The objections of a few cannot serve as grounds for silencing the voices of a minority group.

We implore the residents of Ocean Shores and the broader LGBTQ community to raise their voices in protest. Demand that the SGN be accorded the same treatment as any other free publication in the Ocean Shores Public Library. We must uphold the principles of equality and free expression that our libraries are meant to embody and our Constitution guarantees.