Ordered Not To Discuss Supreme Court Gay Ruling
July 16, 2003
365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Kansas—A Topeka public library worker and PFLAG mom has been ordered not to
discuss the Supreme Court gay civil rights ruling while at work.
American Civil Liberties Union today sent a letter to the Topeka and Shawnee
County Public Library informing it that the action was a flagrant disregard
for the civil rights of worker Bonnie Cuevas.
against the law for a public employer to prevent employees from talking about
pressing social issues at work if it’s not keeping them or their coworkers
from doing their jobs,” said Ken Choe, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
was ordered on the day after the ruling to stop discussing the decision and
its impact on her family. No other library staff members were placed under the
was the biggest legal step forward in lesbian and gay rights in history,”
said Cuevas, a longtime Topeka PFLAG activist. “A public library, of all
places, should understand why I, as the mother of a gay son, took a few
minutes of time to talk about it.”
26, the day of the Lawrence v. Texas decision, Cuevas was approached by one or
two co-workers and received a few unsolicited calls from friends who wanted to
share their excitement over the decision with her. Cuevas also received a
brief unsolicited call from a reporter who wanted a comment on the
significance of the decision for gay and lesbian people and their families.
None of these conversations lasted more than a couple of minutes, Cuevas said.
day, Cuevas received one more short call from a friend about the decision. Not
long after that, two library managers called Cuevas into a meeting where they
told her that she was absolutely prohibited from ever speaking about Lawrence
v. Texas at work again. To justify the censorship, the library managers told
Cuevas that a co-worker had complained that Cuevas was creating a “hostile
work environment.” When Cuevas asked whether her talking with the press had
been a concern, the managers told her it was not.
hope that the library will agree that issues affecting the lives of lesbian
and gay people—especially something of the magnitude of the Lawrence v.
Texas decision—are a compelling concern for those of us who live and work in
Topeka,” said Pedro Irigonegaray of Irigonegaray & Associates, who is
working with the ACLU to represent Cuevas. Irigonegaray added, “I have
immense respect for the professionals who operate our library, but this is a
moment in our history when libraries ought to be defending freedom, not
the June 27 meeting with library managers, Cuevas has complied with the
restriction on her speech. Although some of her co-workers continue to discuss
the Lawrence decision, they have not been reprimanded.
are the places that we most rely upon to encourage the free expression and
exchange of ideas,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Kansas and Western Missouri. “We hope that when the library administrators
examine the silencing of Ms. Cuevas more closely, they will see that a grave
mistake has been made.”
letter, the ACLU asked that the library lift its restrictions on Cuevas’s
speech in compliance with the law and expressed its hope that the matter can
be resolved without resorting to litigation.
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