Judge Strikes Down Utah Drag Show Ban

A federal judge overturned the ban on a Utah drag show this week, arguing that it violated the operators’ First Amendment rights. United States District Judge David Nuffer ruled this week that the Southern Utah Drag Stars should have been allowed to hold their planned April show in the city of St. George. 

St. George denied a permit application for the group to hold an ‘all-ages’ drag show in a public park in the spring.

This was followed by a lawsuit from the organization, which argued that the city engaged in “flagrant and ongoing violations of their free speech, due process and equal protection rights.”

The decision will allow the group to go ahead with a planned drag show later this month.

“I made it my mission to continue to do these events and not just one month out of the year, but to do so people that were like me when I was little…can see that there are queer adults that get to live a long and fulfilled life,” the group’s CEO said.

https://youtu.be/5fPWx-kZH1k

“Public spaces are public spaces,” the judge wrote in his decision. “Public spaces are not private spaces. Public spaces are not majority spaces.”

The drag group argued that the city barred its earlier application due to an ordinance that bans advertising of events prior to permit approval. The group argued that the city had never utilized the permit before.

The ruling bars the city from banning such advertising in the future, with Nuffer writing that the drag show must “take scheduling precedence over any other event.”

“We have read Judge Nuffer’s opinion and while we are disappointed in the result, we are currently evaluating our options in light of the ruling,” the city said in a statement.

St. George has received considerable attention regarding drag shows, including after HBO filmed a show in one of its parks for one of its programs last year. The controversy over the 2022 drag show led to considerable disagreement, resulting in the resignation of City Manager Adam Lenhard.