July 19, 2023
What Happened in St. George, Utah?
By: David George
(This article is a follow up to Sex Kits at Public Parks. See the end of this article for notable public testimony from community members in Rexburg.)
During a July 5th City Council meeting, Rexburg mayor Jerry Merrill and city attorney Steve Zollinger addressed the issue of a new city ordinance banning the presence of children at “drag shows.”
More specifically, they declined to craft an ordinance for Rexburg, citing legal dangers and other complications as their rational.
“The opinion was to stay with what the state law is and enforce things that cross over the lines of state law,” said Merrill. “Further than that, without going into lines of discrimination of certain groups. You can look at what happened to the city of St. George when they tried to limit certain people[.]”
“We reviewed what the state has on their agenda for the coming legislative session,” City Attorney Steve Zollinger said. “We looked at what surrounding states have been doing and how [their efforts] have been received. Made our recommendation which is that we continue to use the existing statutory language that we have and just make sure that we enforce it in a way that protects against any type of predatory behavior.”
This begs the question: What happened in St. George, Utah?
What have surrounding states (i.e. Utah) been doing about this issue?
How have their efforts been received?
HBO AND SOUTHERN UTAH DRAG STARS
In 2022, St. George, Utah was selected as one of the shooting sites for the HBO Drag Show “We’re Here.”
In the episode which features St. George, three drag performers were filmed and photographed in front of the St. George temple, with one of the drag performers holding a Book of Mormon for the photoshoot.
One of the actual performers in the St. George event was a young transgender female transitioning to a male, who had recently undergone breast removal surgery. One of the highlights of her performance involved throwing open her costume to reveal her bare chest in front of an all-ages audience which included small children. (See picture below.)
In the episode, the drag performers make statements about the “Mormon culture” of St. George and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as impediments to the happiness of members of the LGBTQ movement.
The show also briefly covers a controversy which occurred during the production of the show as the St. George City Council considered revoking a permit to the drag show organizers earlier in 2022. The City ultimately decided to issue a permit and the drag event took place.
However, in 2023, the St. George city council came under fire for revoking an event permit the second year.
“Southern Utah Drag Stars and its CEO, Mitski Avalōx, sued the city of St. George in May after the city denied the group permits for an all-ages show it aimed to host in a public park in April.” (A Utah City Violated the First Amendment in Denying a Drag Show Permit, Judge Rules)
St. George claimed the organizers of the drag show had broken an advertising rule by running ads before their permit had been officially issued. However, a district court judge ruled in favor of the show: “The permit denial based on that ordinance, Nuffer wrote in his ruling, was a pretext for discrimination.”
St. George was forced to reissue a permit for the group and give them priority scheduling in the month of June (presumably to make it in time for “Pride Month.”)
During the same city council meeting, Ron Nate responded to the mention of St. George, saying: “Saint George has a problem because they don’t have an ordinance, and so they’re trying to withhold a permit and they have no ordinance to back it up. All we’re asking is create the ordinance.”
“So many times in the legislature, I heard local governments say we just want local control. We want to be able to make decisions for our community. Now I hear this City Council – who has said that to me many times – saying we want the state to decide this. We don’t want the local control on this. It’s too touchy for us. No, you need to stand up and be America’s family community and support America’s family values.”
David George is an independent journalist who specializes in investigative journalism about Idaho politics. He lives in East Idaho.