Since debuting in San Francisco a little over three years ago, drag queen story hours—where performers read from children’s books to crowds of kids and adults—have proven popular at libraries and bookstores around the country, but they’ve also been the subject of legal battles and protests in some places.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Houston threw out a lawsuit brought by conservatives who said drag queen story sessions violated their freedom of religion, the Houston Chronicle reports. And in Lafayette, Louisiana, officials initially banned the event, citing security concerns, and even required library patrons reserving meeting rooms to certify they wouldn’t use them for drag queen readings. But after the American Civil Liberties Union brought suit under the First Amendment, the city agreed Thursday to allow patrons to book space for the story sessions, the Advocate reports.
Proponents generally say that in addition to being entertaining, drag queen story hours can teach kids about acceptance and personal expression. Religious critics express fears that the events will encourage kids to participate in a lifestyle they see as sinful, citing Biblical passages they say condemn cross-dressing and homosexuality.
Librarians often describe the events as a natural way to cater to their diverse communities, and they’re just one of the types of new services that libraries have adopted in recent years, from offering neckties and handbags for patrons going to job interviews to lending equipment for making podcasts.