Over the last three weeks, award-winning author Lilah Sturges, several Leander library staff members, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and even award-winning author Neil Gaiman have accused the City of Leander of discrimination for cancelling Sturges’ author appearance event last month.
Gaiman is the critically acclaimed author and co-author of several books and comics that have been adapted into major motion pictures and major television series, including Coraline, Stardust, HBO’s American Gods and Amazon’s Good Omens.
A recent San Diego Comic-Con panel on the current state of censorship in comic books event even cited the Sturges cancellation.
Leander Public Information Officer Mike Neu categorically denied the claims. He said the issue was more a failure of communication by city staff when they tried to explain their intentions to library staff and the public while simultaneously trying to draft new policies in an area they haven’t had to deal with before.
He said library staff failed to get the Sturges event approved by the city prior to the day of the event, so they were forced to cancel it. He said the city always intended to temporarily ban all outside guests speaking to children until the council gives them direction.
"It certainly isn’t our intention to discriminate against any viewpoints,” Neu said.
Several library staff members spoke with Hill Country News, requesting their name not be used out of fear of retaliation. They claim Neu and city staff had approved the event at a prior meeting and the fact Sturges was transgender wasn't mentioned at that time because it was irrelevant to the event - she was to appear because she is the author of the graphic novel that was being read.
They said they had discussed their concerns about promoting the event a few days ahead of time out of fear the city would cancel it if the city found out Sturges was transgender.
Library staff ultimately posted the event on Facebook and it received several hateful comments aimed at Sturges. The city cancelled the event two hours before it was going to begin.
Neu denied approving the event and said it was due to organizers and library staff failing to properly communicate with city staff.
The CBLDF is running a campaign demanding the city reinstate Sturges' event, which was widely shared on social media under the tag #JusticeForLilah.
Gaiman shared one of their articles, which drew heavily from the Hill Country News investigative reporting, on Twitter and wrote, “I'm glad the CBLDF is out there...”
He told the Hill Country News he has been tracking the controversy and was trying to amplify the CBLDF’s campaign.
“I think it must be embarrassing to have a City Council that behaves like that, and (I) salute the librarians who have protested,” Gaiman wrote.
Neu said the city cancelled the events, not the city council.