KSL Legal Analyst: Ruling on St. George drag show consistent with law

Jun 21, 2023, 7:53 AM | Updated: 9:31 am

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- U.S. District Judge, David Nuffer, ruled on Friday the city of St. George viola...

St. George City Hall is pictured on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

ST. GEORGE, Utah — When U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ruled on Friday that St. George violated the First Amendment by denying a drag show permits, the ruling was consistent with the law said KSL Legal Analyst Greg Sordas.

In his ruling, Nuffer wrote “Public spaces are public spaces … not private spaces. Public spaces are not majority spaces.”

Judge Nuffer ruled the First Amendment ensures all citizens have access to public spaces for public expression. 

The show must go on

KSL legal analyst, Greg Skordas, told Dave and Dujanovic that this ruling is consistent with the law. 

“Events like this can happen,” he said. “And cities can regulate what we call time, place, and manner, but they can’t just ban it altogether.”

Skordas said that cities can determine the day, time, and limitations that organizations must operate within for public events. Some of these limitations are public decency laws and noise levels after curfew. Skordas said Judge Nuffer’s ruling indicated that a drag show didn’t test these limits.

The St. George City Council was concerned the drag show would be too sexual and that the community could find the show offensive, Skordas said. However, he said this is not an acceptable basis to deny a permit. Additionally, Skordas added, there is no evidence that the show would push the boundaries of public decency. 

“You’re presuming the worst without giving these people a fair chance to have their show,” Skordas said. 

These shows are open to the public, but you don’t have to go

Some people within the community were concerned that the drag show was all-age inclusive, and didn’t feel it would be appropriate for children. For that, Skordas provided a solution. 

“Don’t attend it, don’t support it,” he said. “If you’re a citizen of Washington County, and you think, ‘hey, this is not for me, it’s not for my family,’ then keep them away from it.”

“You can make those decisions as a parent and still allow groups to comply with the First Amendment,” he continued, “and still allow the city and city planners to comply with the First Amendment.”

Related: St. George violated 1st Amendment in denying a drag show permit

Why the Southern Utah Drag Stars sued the city

Last month, Mitski Avalōx, CEO of Southern Utah Drag Stars (Drag Stars), filed a lawsuit against the city of St. George for denying the organization a permit to hold a drag show in a city park. Avalōx claimed the city denied the permit because of an advertising ordinance that was rarely — if ever — enforced prior to this case.

Avalox said that, according to the ordinance, advertisement is prohibited until the permit is officially granted. Avalōx said she had been told by a city events coordinator that they could advertise for the event before they had officially received their permit. Despite this, the city later denied the permit.

Nuffer believed this denial was an act of discrimination against the group. 

Related: Southern Utah Drag Stars, ACLU, sue city of St. George


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KSL Legal Analyst: Ruling on St. George drag show consistent with law