A library in Jacksonville, Florida caved to pressure over its plans to host an LGBTQ prom, cancelling the event while citing safety concerns. That’s when a church stepped in to save the day and the dance.
The Storybook Pride Prom was set to take place at the Willowbranch Library, on June 28, with teens between the ages of 14-18 invited to, “Come dressed inspired by your favorite book character–casual, formal, or in drag–whatever makes you feel great. Be you!”
Prospective attendees were told they could create their own “happily ever after,” but it was nearly anything but a storybook ending. A conservative activist, Elizabeth Johnson, who goes by “Activist Mommy,” riled up her sizable following, telling them to contact the library and complain. Another group, Biblical Concepts Ministries, did likewise. Eventually, they got their way.
Jacksonville Public Library posted to Facebook that “the co-opting of the event by others who wish to use it for their own purposes has created a situation in which the library is not confident that it will be 100% prepared to provide a safe, secure environment for customers, staff, volunteers, contractors, protesters and active supporters, and most of all for the teens themselves.”
“It is unfortunate that this event became associated with political statement and shows of activism, as those are not part of the library’s mission in any way,” it added.
Chris Boivin, a spokesperson with the library, said there had been many comments both for and against, including “some things that could be construed as threats.”
The Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church answered the call, hosting the event on the same night it was planned to take place at the library. It was reportedly unanimously supported by the church’s board and went off without a hitch.
According to News4Jax, police, private security, and dozens of volunteers were on hand to ensure the safety of all involved, but Beatrice Palmer, also known as BeBe Deluxe, who hosted the event, said safety was never an issue.
“There were absolutely no causes for concern and no religious hate group protesters in attendance,” Palmer said.
“It was the right thing to do,” Grace Repass, the church’s past president, told The Washington Post. “The LGBTQIA+ youth in our community deserve to have their prom and we wanted to support them.”
“We see our church as a safe place for people who are figuring out who they are. Our Unitarian Universalist values call us to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person. So, it’s a matter of integrity—to act in alignment with who we say we are.”