Obama-Appointed Judge Rules Utah City Must Allow All-Ages Drag Show in Public Park

An Obama-appointed U.S. District judge has ruled that a Utah city must allow an all-ages drag show in a public park on June 30.

A lawsuit filed by Southern Utah Drag Stars, Mitski Avalōx, and the American Civil Liberties Union accused St. George city leaders of discrimination for rejecting an application for the drag show in a city-owned park.

“The City denied Plaintiffs’ application and took other discriminatory actions to prevent the drag performance from taking place based on the City’s objection to the viewpoint and content of Plaintiffs’ performance, including the gender nonconforming expression it involves,” the lawsuit said.

District Judge David Nuffer opened his 60-page ruling by asserting, “Public spaces are public spaces. Public spaces are not private spaces. Public spaces are not majority spaces. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that all citizens, popular or not, majority or minority, conventional or unconventional, have access to public spaces for public expression.”

The city had used a rule against promoting an event before a permit was granted to deny the application. The judge wrote that the use of this rule “was a pretext for discrimination.”

“The City is ORDERED to reverse its decision denying the Permit and is ORDERED to issue a permit allowing the Allies Drag Show to be held June 30, 2023,” the ruling stated. “The City is also prevented from enforcing the advertising prohibition generally and the moratorium as to Plaintiffs current application.”

The judge ordered the city to allow the event to occur at “either JC Snow Park or the Sun Bowl” and added, “Plaintiffs’ event shall take scheduling precedence over any other event.”

Fox 13 noted that this is not the first time the city has been targeted by drag queens looking to push the boundaries.

“This is not the first time St. George has faced controversy over drag shows,” the report stated. “The HBO documentary series ‘We’re Here’ staged one in a park to the objection of some city leaders. It led to the resignation of the city manager, who refused to cancel the permit because he feared a First Amendment lawsuit. The City of St. George ended up receiving a payout in an agreement to leave.”

“In response to the controversy, a St. George area lawmaker also introduced a bill in the Utah State Legislature earlier this year requiring shows on public property with ‘adult themes’ to post notices warning people,” the report continued. “The bill failed to advance but is slated to be discussed over the next year in the legislature’s interim sessions.”

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