Library board president blasted for comments decrying 'the homosexual agenda'

Cook Memorial patrons, trustees decry her comments on 'homosexual agenda'

Editor's note: This story has been updated to address new questions about the setting in which Bonnie Quirke made controversial remarks in 2010.

Cook Memorial Public Library District board President Bonnie Quirke was publicly lambasted Tuesday for an old speech in which she accused libraries of promoting "the homosexual agenda."

Quirke's remarks were uploaded to YouTube in 2010 by an account called NorthernILPatriots, but they only recently garnered ire on social media from some Cook Memorial patrons, employees and officials.

"The library abounds with the homosexual agenda, especially in the children's department," Quirke tells the audience in the video before singling out a picture book called "Heather Has Two Mommies" for disdain.

That book is in the Cook Memorial collection.

In the same speech, Quirke complained the American Library Association, a group that promotes libraries and library education, "is as left as you can get."

"And we want to bring it as right as we can get it," Quirke said.

During Tuesday's library board meeting, Quirke said she made the roughly seven-minute speech during a conference staged by the Illinois Conservative Union, but on Thursday the organization's chairwoman said it didn't exist at that time. That's supported by a history of the group published on its website.

The setting of Quirke's speech isn't disclosed in the video. On Friday, Quirke acknowledged her mistake and said the speech was to the Northern Illinois Patriots, a Tea Party group operating at the time.

The speech was denounced by more than a dozen district residents - and some fellow trustees - during Tuesday's meeting, which was held remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis rather than at one of the Libertyville-based district's facilities.

Vernon Hills resident Mary Jane Wang said she was disturbed by the video.

"There's no place for that kind of ignorance and discrimination in a public library," Wang said.

Several audience members called for Quirke's resignation.

"You're unfit to serve our community," Vernon Hills resident Ryan Gold said.

Library Trustees Jennifer Banek and Phyllis Dobbs both called Quirke's comments hate speech.

Critics also blasted Facebook posts Quirke made about former President Barack Obama and the recent violence and property destruction that followed George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis.

Quirke, of Libertyville, has served on the library board since 2005 and has been its president since 2010.

Quirke was silent during most of the comments but answered a few direct questions. At the start of the discussion, she read a brief statement in which she said she's never allowed her personal positions "to influence the library in any way, shape or form."

She also cited her free-speech rights.

Quirke had several defenders Tuesday. They included Republican congressional candidate Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee, who said silencing Quirke is wrong.

"Let's start being kind to each other and stop attacking," said Mukherjee, who's challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider for the 10th House District seat.

Others said the people criticizing Quirke were excluding opposing views.

Library Director David Archer said Cook Memorial officials have received about 80 emails about Quirke's speech and social media use in the last 10 days. All but five were disapproving, he said.

Quirke has made controversial comments about LGBTQ people before. In a 2013 Daily Herald interview, Quirke assailed the eventually successful plan to allow same-sex marriage by saying legalized polygamy would be next. In that same interview, Quirke insisted gay men don't maintain monogamous relationships, and she questioned the suitability of same-sex parents.

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