Canceling drag show will cost St. George taxpayers $600,000+

Nov 2, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:19 am

The Southern Utah Drag Stars have filed a lawsuit against the city of St. George, the St. George Ci...

FILE: St. George City Hall is pictured on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. The Southern Utah Drag Stars have sued the city of St. George, alleging violations of the group's First Amendment rights. (Ravell Hall/Deseret News)

(Ravell Hall/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Taxpayers in St. George will be paying the city manager more than $600,000 to leave his job and not sue the city for breach of contract after he approved a HBO drag-show performance in the Town Square during the summer.

In early October, Mayor Michele Randall and the City Council announced City Manager Adam Lenhard would leave the city “to pursue other opportunities,” according to a statement provided to KSL.com.

No to drag show in St. George

The City Council opposed hosting the drag show because of its mature content and asked Lenhard to void the show’s permit.

Councilwoman Michelle Tanner compared the drag show to a “strip show” or nudist club in text messages, according to KSL.com.

“Overwhelmingly” people in the community “would agree that a drag show would be offensive and lack scientific values,” Tanner wrote, adding “sexuality” would be the “whole theme” of the show in a text exchange between Tanner and Lenhard.

“Unless the production violates a law, I think their right to use the park is protected under the First Amendment. A private property owner could exclude anyone for any reason, but the government can’t restrict their speech or expression on public property,” Lenhard texted, adding that he was told none of the drag show participants would be “nude or indecent.”

The show was part of HBO’s “We’re Here” drag show tour, which visits smaller US cities and towns, particularly in the South and Southwest.

Drag show and the law

KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic with Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to provide insight into the dispute in St. George.

“In your view is this drag show free speech and the city manager was right?” Debbie asked.

“Yeah, Debbie, I really think it is,” Skordas replied.

He added if an event protected by the First Amendment, such as the Ku Klux Klan marching in a town or city, is likely to incite violence, then the city can take action to prevent that from occurring.

“But in this case, they [city leaders] really didn’t have anything that would make this seem or appear to be illegal or inappropriate,” Skordas said. “I mean, maybe it’s not the most family-friendly thing, and I can understand people being concerned about that. So keep the family away. And I think that’s what the First Amendment would allow in a case like this.”

Skordas added all parties in this dispute should have consulted better with one another before the decision was made to approve the drag show.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Canceling drag show will cost St. George taxpayers $600,000+