St. George will not appeal judge’s order allowing drag show

ST. GEORGE — The city of St. George has chosen not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the city violated the First Amendment when it shot down a special event permit for a drag show earlier this year.

In this file photo, Mitski Avalox, CEO of Southern Utah Drag Stars, speaks to the St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, April 11, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George / CEC, St. George News

Last month Southern Utah Drag Stars, the group’s CEO Mitski Avalox and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the city that accuses city officials of censorship and discrimination toward the drag show while also showing favoritism toward other events.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer agreed and granted an injunction requested by Southern Utah Drag Stars forcing the city to allow the drag show to go on without interruption.

“The city has decided not to appeal Judge Nuffer’s decision and will continue to move forward with the litigation in this matter,” the city of St. George said in a statement issued Thursday. “In the meantime, we have been working with the event organizers and the event will move forward at the Dixie Sunbowl on June 30. We expect the event will be peaceful and comply with all laws.”

David Cordero, a spokesman for the city of St. George, told St. George News the city declined to go into detail about why it chose not to appeal the judge’s decision.

While Nuffer granted the injunction, the lawsuit itself continues with the judge ordering both parties to “meet, confer, and by July 31, 2023, file an attorney’s meeting planning report and submit a proposed scheduling order for resolution of the issues presented in the case.”

Following the judge’s order, Southern Utah Drag Stars and the ACLU of Utah released a joint statement via social media.

In this file photo, St. George resident Toni during the Town Square “We’re Here” drag show, St. George, Utah, June 3, 2022 | Photo courtesy of HBO, St. George News

“Every day, more and more LGBTQ+ people find the language to describe their own experiences allowing many to live openly and authentically,” the statement reads. “Drag is art, entertainment, and political speech, by building community and acceptance. We will continue to fight for this freedom in Utah.”

Southern Utah Drag Stars will be hosting what is touted to be a family-friendly drag show at the Dixie Sunbowl in St. George on Friday at 5 p.m.

According to the event’s website, admission will be charged to individuals age 18 and over and runs $15-to-$25. Children 17 and younger will be allowed in for free.

Southern Utah Drag Stars pursued the lawsuit after the St. George City Council denied its appeal after the city revoked its original special event permit for a drag show set to happen in April. The event was also to be held on public property.

The city opted to revoke the special event permit due to Southern Utah Drag Stars advertising the event before the permit was granted, which is a violation of city code. However, it is also a code the city officials have acknowledged is unevenly enforced with some events being denied due to the code violation while others are allowed to persist.

Previously noting the issues the city has had with its special events process, the City Council enacted a six-month moratorium on the approval of new events to be held on public property in early March. The six-month period is meant to be used by city staff as a time to study the impact that the city’s near-constant special events have on the local community and infrastructure.

The lawsuit argues that the six-month ban on new events has been used as a means to discriminate against the drag show, and by extension, the area’s LGBTQ-plus community.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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