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Union County allows Moms for Liberty library event, denies local Pride group

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Ten months after Union County closed its library meeting rooms to non-governmental groups, the county has granted an exception for a local Moms for Liberty event — while denying access to a local Pride group that planned a similar event.

The Union County Main Library will host a "Constitution Day Storytime," presented by the local chapter of Moms for Liberty on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to noon. According to a flyer shared on social media, the event will feature "patriotic stories, music, and free crafts."

In a statement to WFAE, local Moms for Liberty Chair Abigail Prado said "our event is for the whole community and everyone is welcome."

Union County Pride President Cristal Robinson said after learning about the Moms For Liberty event, the local Pride chapter also submitted a request to hold a Constitution Day event at the Main Library at 2 p.m. But the Pride group's application was denied.

Robinson, who uses they/them pronouns, said they were told their event would violate the library's policy barring non-governmental groups from reserving meeting rooms — but that the local Moms for Liberty event was permitted because it was approved by County Manager Brian Matthews.

Robinson said their group also reached out to Matthews to request permission, but Matthews would not return their calls or emails.

"This is a blatant violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments," Robinson said.

Union County restricted access to library meeting rooms in November

In November, the Union County Board of Commissioners approved a new policy that allows only governmental agencies to reserve library meeting rooms.

The library's website says outside groups may only reserve rooms "with express permission of the County Manager or Facility Official designated by the County Manager."

In a statement, Union County spokesperson Liz Cooper said the county granted approval to the local Moms for Liberty event "based on its educational theme, the historical significance of the day, the County's participation in the educational materials and message, and its alignment with the established event format of regular library activities."

The county said the meeting request from Union County Pride was "vague and ambiguous" and did not mention Constitution Day.

Constitution Day is a federally recognized holiday celebrated on Sept. 17. It recognizes the day in 1787 when the United States Constitution was adopted by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

County Manager Brian Matthews did not return requests for comment.

Robinson, the Union County Pride president, said if the county had allowed the organization to host an event, it would have been a free, educational event open to the public that also marked Constitution Day, similar to the Moms for Liberty event.

"It would just be a boring conversation about the Constitution. I would love it, I might be the only person there," said Robinson, who is a civil rights attorney. "I can tell you case law and everything. That's my passion."

The county previously denied a room reservation request for the local NAACP

The president of the Union County NAACP, Archie Hansley, told WFAE his group was also denied access to a library meeting room earlier this summer after requesting the space for an NAACP subcommittee meeting.

"My biggest concern is that the criteria that's being used to vet the individuals that are approved to use the facilities, that it's consistent across the board," Hansley said.

Hansley said the county needs to clarify and publicly display its criteria for approving outside groups, and apply the rules equally.

This is not the first controversy involving the Union County Library and Union County Pride. In 2022, the library abruptly pulled out of plans to participate in the first annual Union County Pride, WSOC-TV reported.

With no meeting room reserved for Saturday, Robinson said the local Pride group will continue to host other events through this weekend for the 2nd annual Union County Pride. Other events include an "Adult Kick-Off Party" Friday night at The Bottle Factory, a "Teen Kick-Off" Saturday in Indian Trail, and a Pride festival in Belk-Tonawanda Park on Sunday.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
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