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Wyoming Lawmakers Say The Buck Stops At Drag Queen Events

Drag Queen

A Wyoming lawmaker is spearheading an effort to prevent taxpayer funds from being used for “sexually explicit” events.

State Representative Sarah Penn, R-Lander, told a joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee meeting Monday that she received public complaints about Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) funding being used at a drag queen bingo event Saturday in Laramie. Penn proposed that the committee draft a bill mandating state agencies are forbidden from using taxpayer money to fund such events.

Saturday’s Drag Queen Bingo event was hosted by a nonprofit called Wyoming AIDS Assistance and received $3,000 in federal funding channeled through WDH. Stefan Johansson, director of the department, told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle that his agency saw the event as an opportunity to utilize federal funding for HIV/AIDS and other STI disease prevention efforts.

“We take an agnostic and even absent position on cultural issues that organizations like these put on, but (consider funding) when there is a disease prevention potential,” Johannsen said.

“You say you are agnostic on the issue, but we are using taxpayer dollars, and I don’t think the taxpayers are agnostic,” Rep. Penn said.

“On paper, they focus this as being a prevention-directed event, but the advertisements and things that were put out to the community seem otherwise,” Penn said. “Their exact words were, ‘This is R-rated and not for children, salty language and dirty jokes and booze a-plenty.’ The reality is different than what the on-paper intent would be.”

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, said he understood the proposed bill draft was aimed at the drag show in Laramie, but asked if it could unintentionally affect other events, like an annual Bras for A Cause auction in Jackson, which raises funding for the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Women’s Health Fund to support breast cancer awareness.

“Where is the line, and how sexually explicit are we talking about?” Yin asked. “Where is the line, or is it only LGBTQ (events)?”

After a voice vote in favor of Penn’s motion, co-Chairman Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, directed the Legislative Service Office to work on draft legislation for the committee to consider.

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