'All-ages' drag show producer claims 'discrimination' after Utah city refuses to allow event, ACLU files suit

"It’s not just a political message but also just for the community, a rural community at that."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the producer of an all-ages drag show have filed a lawsuit against the city of St. George, Utah for rejecting their application for an event.

Fox 13 reported that the complaint was filed in the US District Court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The lawsuit accuses the city officials of St. George of discrimination after it rejected Mitski Avalōx and Southern Utah Drag Stars' application for an all-ages show in a city-owned park.

According to the suit, "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.”

Avalōx told the outlet that the show was designed to send a message of unity and support for the LGBTQ community in southern Utah.

"It’s not just a political message but also just for the community, a rural community at that. That for so long has kind of muted voices like mine. So when I was denied, I felt that there [was] an injustice done not just to me but my entire community. It was not just me hoping to have a drag show. It was vendors, audiences, people from Salt Lake City coming down to support St. George in one of its first-of-its-kind drag shows in a public park using a special events permit. So after that, I said 'enough is enough.'"

However, Avalōx also told the outlet that the show was originally planned at a private venue which was canceled due to "a small minority but very loud minority."

The lawsuit claimed that city council members enacted a never-used part of the city’s code to reject Southern Utah Drag Stars' application and that they had already begun advertising the event before the permit was granted.

The St. George City Council members are also being accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community in public rhetoric. According to the suit, "The City’s discriminatory denial of Plaintiffs’ permit application resonates with decades of mistreatment towards a marginalized community. It communicates to Plaintiffs, and to the broader LGBTQ+ community in St. George, that they are unwelcome and unworthy to exist in public spaces. Further, the City’s actions silence artistic expression in an effort to score political points under the mantle of being opposed to LGBTQ+ people’s civil rights."

The plaintiffs are asking for a judge to order the city to grant the permit so that the drag show can be staged in a city park in June.

A spokesperson for the City of St. George told Fox 13 that they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and had no comment.

The HBO documentary series "We're Here" had previously staged a drag show in one of the city’s parks despite the objections of some city officials. The city manager ended up resigning after refusing to cancel the permit because he was concerned about a First Amendment lawsuit.

Following the controversy, a St. George area lawmaker introduced legislation in the State Legislature requiring shows on public property with "adult themes" to post notices warning people.

Though the legislation failed to advance earlier this year, it is scheduled to be discussed in the legislature's interim sessions next year.

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