Our ACLU Drag Defense Fund money is hard at werk! After the City of St. George denied their permit for a family-friendly public drag show, the Southern Utah Drag Stars reached out to the ACLU, who just filed suit.
Here’s how the desert showdown started: On March 3, CEO Mitski Avalōx applied for a City of St. George special events permit to host a family-friendly drag event called Allies & Community Drag Show Festival, at J.C. Snow Park. Via ACLU:
A few weeks later, the city denied her application, alleging that she violated its advertising ordinance, an obscure local rule which prohibits advertising for special events until the city grants a permit. The advertising ordinance was not routinely enforced, in part because it is unworkable – permits are typically not issued until the day of or the day before events, making advertising an event practically impossible. Drag Stars appealed the city’s permit denial and at the hearing at least one city council member acknowledged that the advertising ban is not enforceable, but the city nonetheless denied Drag Stars’ appeal
To make matters worse, while Avalōx’s application was pending, St. George decided to suspend considering any new special event permits for six months, denying Drag Stars the opportunity to submit a new permit application after the initial rejection. The city later exempted “city sponsored” events from the six month ban on new permit applications, creating a scheme whereby city officials selectively grant permits to favored events while denying all others. St. George’s special events policies discriminate against drag performances and are so opaque that no one can know what is allowed and what is not.
The shade of it all!
Just last year, lawmakers in six states proposed bills to ban drag. These bills are designed to punish any entertainer whose appearance does not match traditional gender roles, not just drag queens. Under some of these bills, a business would be considered a “sexually oriented enterprise” – and therefore be subject to strict zoning requirements and fees – just for letting female comedians wear pants or male magicians grow their hair out. Drag performers and host venues across the country have had no choice but to move to higher security or cancel performances altogether.
Governmental attempts to restrict drag performances claim to protect children from so-called obscene material. However, drag is not obscene, and restricting access to a supportive community only causes more harm to trans and LGBTQ+ youth, who are already at a higher risk of depression and suicide.
Southern Utah Drag Stars is represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah Foundation, Inc. (ACLU of Utah) and the law firm Jenner & Block. Go get ’em!
Read the full complaint here.
Small town queens in red states are on the front lines of this legal battle, and they need your help! Please join us in upporting the Drag Defense Fund with a donation of any size here:
Image: Instagram / Southern Utah Drag Stars