WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's administration has stopped U.S. military bases from hosting drag shows after criticism from some Republicans, amid a broader push in conservative-led states targeting LGBTQ+ celebrations.
Hosting drag shows is “inconsistent with regulations regarding the use of (Defense Department) resources,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh in a statement Thursday.
At least one show was canceled as a result. Organizers of an event at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada canceled a drag show timed to Pride Month, which began Thursday, according to a Facebook post quoted by Fox News.
In her statement, Singh did not directly address LGBTQ+ rights but said the Defense Department was “proud to serve alongside any and every young American who takes the oath that puts their life on the line in defense of our country.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who sharply criticized top Pentagon leaders earlier this year and questioned them about drag shows, tweeted that the cancellation was a “HUGE VICTORY!”
“Drag shows should not be taking place on military installations with taxpayer dollars PERIOD!” he added.
Drag shows feature entertainers who dress and act as a different gender. They are often part of Pride events and can include colorfully clad drag queens reading books to children. Supporters say they celebrate people of different sexual orientations and promote acceptance.
Opponents accuse organizers of drag shows of trying to “sexualize” children. Drag shows sometimes draw protesters and a bevy of Republican-led legislatures have passed bills in recent months trying to ban or restrict them.
Nellis Air Force Base has previously hosted drag performers. About 180 people attended a similar show in 2021, according to Task and Purpose, a publication covering the military.
The Pentagon's move to cancel the show this week led the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ+ civil rights, to directly criticize Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Before today, Secretary Austin has been unwavering in his support for LGBTQ+ Americans who proudly serve in uniform,” the group said in a statement. “However, instead of truly standing up for our community on the first day of Pride, he chose to side with the politics of fear and discrimination peddled by extreme members of Congress.”
Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press