Southern Utah Drag Stars, a Utah-based group that organizes drag performances, has filed a lawsuit against the city of St. George, Utah. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, asserts that the city’s refusal to grant permits for an all-ages drag show in a public park infringed upon their free speech, due process and equal protection rights. Seeking damages, the group, led by CEO Miski Avalox, urges the city to reconsider its decision and permit a drag show in the future.
Following the filming of an HBO drag show in a public park, St. George has attracted significant attention in the national debate surrounding drag performances. Republican-controlled cities and states across the country have increasingly scrutinized and targeted these performances legislatively. Recent examples include Florida’s ban on minors attending drag shows and Montana’s prohibition on individuals dressed in drag reading to children at public schools and libraries.
The lawsuit, filed by Southern Utah Drag Stars and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Tuesday, alleges a pattern of discriminatory treatment against gender-diverse and LGBTQ+ individuals in Utah and the US. Their argument centers around St. George’s denial of event permits, which they claim is indicative of a larger attack on drag performers. The plaintiffs contend that the city violated their free speech, due process and equal protection rights by enforcing an ordinance that had not been applied before. Furthermore, they argue that the city’s actions targeted and discriminated against the LGBTQ+ community.
St. George did not provide a comment regarding the lawsuit, while the city attorney stood in defense of the enforcement of the ordinance mentioned by the drag group. The events coordinator denied approving the group’s request to begin advertising before obtaining a permit. The complaint further alleges that Michelle Tanner, a city councilwoman, has fostered conflict and made allegations of “predatory behavior” against drag performers in front of children, thereby contributing to an anti-LGBTQ+ climate in St. George.
The lawsuit highlights a contentious battle over drag performances and LGBTQ+ rights. The case represents a broader trend of legislative targeting and controversy surrounding drag shows and similar events in conservative jurisdictions. The outcome of this lawsuit could have implications for the protection of LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of expression in public spaces.