Kansas Library Worker Charges Anti-Gay Backlash

July 17, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Topeka, Kansas public library employee has charged that she was reprimanded after she talked openly at work about gay rights following last month's US Supreme Court ruling striking down anti-sodomy laws.

Bonnie Cuevas, a board member of the Kansas Unity and Pride Alliance and mother of a gay man, said two administrators at the Topeka-Shawnee County Library verbally reprimanded her for talking about the case and told her she was prohibited from discussing gay rights at work, according to an Associated Press report. They cited a complaint from a co-worker who felt the subject was creating a hostile work environment.

Following the high court’s decision, Cuevas, an events coordinator for the library, spoke by telephone to friends and reporters about the decision and how it affects her family. She also talked about the decision to a co-worker who approached her for information about the decision, she said.

According to the AP story, Cuevas was quoted in USA Today the day after the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws, including the one on the books in Kansas. She told the paper how her son, now 27, nearly died when he was beaten while leaving a gay bar with his boyfriend.

The interview lasted just a few minutes, Cuevas said, and she also received brief telephone calls from supporters. The next day, she received one more phone call and was approached by a co-worker, who said the ruling was important to him.

She was then told in private by supervisors that not everyone agreed with her views and she was verbally reprimanded, Cuevas said. “I was just flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it,” Cuevas said.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the library Wednesday, asking officials to reconsider their prohibition on Cuevas’ ability to discuss the case, without the group resorting to legal action.

Library director David Leamon said the staff complained that Cuevas, 54, was being disruptive because of the frequent, impassioned telephone calls. “We never issue gag orders,” Leamon said, according to the AP. “The library is on neutral ground and we don’t take positions on issues.”