Republican politician faces civil rights complaint after banning Down syndrome drag show
A Republican congressional candidate is facing a civil rights complaint, after he banned a troupe of drag queens with Down syndrome from performing at an art space he owns.
The ACLU of Michigan filed action against Peter Meijer, who is running in Michigan’s third congressional district, over his decision to bar British drag collective Drag Syndrome from performing at the Tanglefoot venue he owns in Grand Rapids.
Meijer had claimed in a public letter: “The involvement of individuals whose ability to act of their own volition is unclear raises serious ethical concerns that I cannot reconcile.
“I cannot know, and neither can an audience, whether the individuals performing for Drag Syndrome are giving, or are in a position to give, their full and informed consent.”
The claims were condemned by the performers, who were forced to find an alternate venue for their September 7 performance with just days’ notice.
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Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Michigan said: “If members of the group were to perform an orchestra recital, chances are he wouldn’t have canceled the performance.”
He told NBC: “Individuals are individuals, and I think that Mr. Meijer’s decision to cancel this performance is based on a misperception that adults with Down syndrome lack the capacity to understand or agree to participate in drag performances.
“Maybe Mr. Meijer isn’t necessarily willing to admit or agree that he based his decision on stereotypes concerning people with disabilities, and as we said before, some misperceptions about drag that we believe also deals with gender stereotypes.”
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However, Meijer has refused to back down.
In a tweet, he responded: “Fair to say I didn’t expect Down syndrome Drag shows to be a defining issue of my congressional campaign.
“Come what may, I won’t apologise for doing what’s right.”
Although he owns the building where the show was to take place, a statement made clear that Meijer has previously had “no involvement in the creative or artistic programming of the site.”
The performers of Drag Syndrome have accused Meijer of having a “hidden agenda” and of raising false concerns about the performers as an “excuse.”
20-year-old drag king Justin Bond told WOOD TV: “If they come to the show they will see that we’re not just performers, we’re professional artists, and it feels great.
“There’s no way I’m letting you treat us that way. We deserve to perform, we deserve to be who we are, and live our lives as we are.
“It doesn’t matter if we are disabled, or [from a] different country, that’s what we have got to do and that’s what we are here to do.”