The ACLU of Iowa sent letters to city council members in Dyersville, Pella and Waukee on Tuesday informing them that local ordinances including “female impersonators” and “male impersonators” as adult entertainment are unconstitutional and must be changed, according to the ACLU.
The organization noted the ordinances are zoning ordinances, which increases hurdles as certain licenses and fees are required to host events.
ACLU of Iowa Attorney Shefali Aurora claimed the ordinances are unconstitutional on three accounts:
First, they violate free speech as an unjustifiable content restriction. Second, they are overbroad because they include all drag shows, regardless of whether or not they feature “erotic or sexually explicit” content as “adult” expression. Third, they violate equal protection in targeting the LGBTQ community.
Aurora said the ordinances are being used to target drag, which is linked with the LGBTQ community. Aurora added it is “fitting” the ACLU could send these letters during Pride month as the ordinances “perpetuate a history of hostility toward the LGBTQ community.”
Eagle Grove, which prohibited a drag show using the ordinance as justification has changed their ordinance according to Aurora. Knoxville, Newton and Grinnell are currently in the process of amending their ordinances.
Aurora called the ordinances “outdated.”
Loretta Stone, a drag performer from Des Moines, said that drag is inherently a protest because drag performers are told their clothes aren’t in line with their gender and they can face violence and hate speech.
“Drag has always been a way for my community to say ‘we’re here, this is what we love and we’re not going to put up with it,'” Stone said.
Stone said doing drag in public is important to reinforce the idea drag performers are not people to be “hidden.”