Moms for Liberty suing Yolo County library, claiming free speech violations at forums

Yolo County’s Moms for Liberty chapter and conservative groups are suing the county and its library system, alleging their First Amendment rights were abridged by protests against them during events at the Davis library branch.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Sacramento, seeks injunctions against policies that the plaintiffs say hinder their right to free expression, and names the county and library officials Diana Lopez and D. Scott Love.

The suit stems from a series of events at the Mary L. Stephens branch of the Yolo County Library system last year that garnered nationwide attention, including calls to local law enforcement, a series of bomb threats and accusations of hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community.

Moms for Liberty, which the suit describes as an “organization whose mission is to organize, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government,” and chair Beth Bourne are the lead plaintiffs.

In addition to Moms for Liberty, the plaintiffs include the California Family Council and the Independent Council of Women’s Sports, and was filed by lawyers for two Washington, D.C.-based groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech.

The suit contends that Lopez, the county librarian, and Love, a regional manager who oversees the Davis branch, interfered with the right of Moms for Liberty and others to express their views about sex, gender identity and athletics while using a public meeting room at the Davis branch.

“Of all government officials, librarians — people entrusted with disseminating a broad range of perspectives and voices — should be expected to understand (the importance of free speech),” the suit says. “But Yolo County librarians defendants Scott Love and Diana Lopez believe that their job is to enforce conformity with the government’s official views.

“They not only allow their ideological allies to disrupt speakers whose views they reject, they actively censor speech with which they disagree.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment and due process rights under the U.S. Constitution and seeks orders prohibiting the library from enforcing a variety of policies, including one that “restricts room access to ‘ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire.’”

The suit also asks that the library no longer be able to prohibit “speakers from referring to people in accord with their natal sex (‘misgendering’), and from criticizing or questioning any tenet of ideologies that claim that sex is not binary and immutable.”

Lopez did not respond to phone messages to her office and cellphone, and Love declined to comment Monday.

Moms for Liberty events at Davis library

The suit stems from a series of events that began with a Feb. 25 “Brave Books Family Hour” aimed to foster discussion of children’s books published by Brave Books, which celebrate families and honor traditional values,” the suit says.

Plans for that event spurred a series of emails among officials, including an email from Love to Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel expressing “’concerns with’ Moms for Liberty ‘using the room,’” the lawsuit says.

“The day before the Brave Books event, defendant Lopez emailed library staff and informed them that Moms for Liberty is ‘anti-LGBTQIA, anti-woke, (and) anti-critical race theory,’” the suit says, adding that Lopez told staffers that “the library would display ‘LGBTQIA-affirming materials.’”

“The February 25 event hosted approximately 25 people, including three protesters who stood in the back of the room, and finished successfully with no disruption,” the suit says.

The next event came March 17, with Moms for Liberty hosting a screening in the library’s Blanchard Room of “Affirmation Generation,” a film that “exposes the consequences of so-called gender affirming care and features stories of detransitioners who medically transitioned to live as the opposite sex but have now reverted to living consistent with their natal sex, having suffered numerous lifelong medical complications due to their transition,” the suit says.

During that event, a protester stood at the front of the room holding signs that read, “Transphobia = hate,” “Trans is Natural,” and “Fact-Free Fear-Mongering Propaganda,” the suit says.

“Moreover, during the screening, protesters on the sidewalk on library property immediately outside the room deliberately made disruptive noise, causing attendees to have difficulty hearing the film,” the suit says.

The Mary L. Stephens Library in Davis, part of the Yolo County Library system.
The Mary L. Stephens Library in Davis, part of the Yolo County Library system.

Misgendering by speaker halts event

Protests continued at later events, including an Aug. 20 forum on female sports titled “Fair and Safe Sports for Girls,” at which Love warned participants about “misgendering” and said that if participants speak about a transgender female “they need to be referred to as a female” and that a “transgender male needs to be referred to as a male,” the suit says.

“Defendant Love warned plaintiffs that ‘if there is any misgendering’ he would ask that person to ‘leave’ with ‘no exceptions,’” the suit says. “According to Love, that was ‘it’ and his ‘direction.’”

“The forum attracted 65 attendees, including approximately 25 protesters and defendant Love,” the suit says. “Love encouraged protesters outside the library to enter the Blanchard Room and told an attendee that he hoped more people would enter the room so that it would exceed its capacity and require the fire marshal to terminate plaintiffs’ forum.”

Former collegiate athlete Sophia Lorey spoke at the event.

“At 18, I was able to live out my dream,” Lorey told the crowd. “But current 10-year-old girls cannot live out the same dream as long as men are allowed to compete in women’s sports.”

After library officials including Love told Lorey not to label the transgender women as men, saying it would violate the library’s code of conduct, Lorey went on to describe them as “biological men” instead.

Eventually, the suit says, Love turned off the projector to halt the event and participants, including Lorey, left.

“I felt like there was ideological discrimination,” Lorey later told The Sacramento Bee.

Speakers line up on stage during the Yolo is for Everyone event at Davis’ Central Park on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, as members of the community ralled in support of the LGBTQ community after recent bomb threats against the city’s schools and library.
Speakers line up on stage during the Yolo is for Everyone event at Davis’ Central Park on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, as members of the community ralled in support of the LGBTQ community after recent bomb threats against the city’s schools and library.

Bomb threats and a restraining order

In the days following the showdown, the library and the Davis Joint Unified School District received six bomb threats, and although officials said there was no evidence linking the threats to the library events Davis police, including Chief Pytel, said a possible correlation “cannot be ignored.”

Bourne, the Yolo Moms for Liberty chapter chair, believes the district tried to intimidate her from speaking out on gender ideology issues by serving her a “workplace violence restraining order.”

The temporary restraining order, filed Oct. 5, barred Bourne from being within 100 yards of any “school district property” and five school district officials, including teachers, she said. It also prohibited her from posting anything on social media that had “personally identifiable information” about a district employee, she added.

“I’ve never done anything to threaten any kind of violence towards anybody,” Bourne said.

But the district “voluntarily” dismissed the temporary restraining order against Bourne before arguments in court could be heard. A notice of dismissal was filed Nov. 30 by the district, court records show.

It’s unclear why the district scrapped its request. Kristin Conner, a district spokeswoman, said that the district could not comment on matters of pending litigation, but that the district would continue to make decisions for the safety and well-being of its students, staff and community.

Bourne said the restraining order’s dismissal disappointed her — she had lots of questions for school administrators.

“Maybe there’s ... some other options for future hearings,” Bourne said.