During the Public Comments Portion of the Regular West Hollywood City Council on Monday, March 6, 2023, David Cooley, the founder of The Abbey Food & Bar, stood before council to make a statement in solidarity with drag performers. He was joined by eleven drag entertainers who perform at the Abbey WeHo and The Chapel. Some in the group held Tennessee flags.
He later posted his speech in the @abbeyweho Instagram page:
“Last week, Tennessee became the first state to criminalize drag shows.
It is now possible for a drag performer to be charged with a felony and have their voting rights stripped, just for performing.
The bill is also so broad, it also means a trans person walking down the street could be charged with a felony for impersonating a male or female.
Tennessee lawmakers are not done, they also have bills targeting venues that feature drag performers. They want to reclassify them as strip clubs. It could soon be illegal to see a drag queen in a gay bar in Tennessee.
Drag is not a crime.
Tennessee isn’t alone. Just two months into 2023, conservative lawmakers have introduced over 340 anti-LGBT bills.
We are here tonight to show solidarity for our friends in Tennessee and ask the City of West Hollywood to issue a proclamation affirming that Drag is art, not a crime.
Drag is an artform built on self-expression and artistic performance. Drag is also powerful tool for political protest, that uplifts the LGBTQ+ community in the face of discrimination and oppression.
We want the City of West Hollywood @wehocity to make it clear that drag is both an art and form of political protest — both protected by the United States Constitution.
We can send a powerful message to the entire country that we value and support the rights of all individuals to express themselves freely and openly. We can send a message to our friends all over the country, whose rights are being stripped away, that we support them.
I urge you to take a bold and affirmative stand to support drag performers everywhere. #beyourself #notacriminal #SupportDragQueens #DragIsNOTaCrime“
I don’t think drag should be criminalized, that’s ridiculous. Having said that – It may be “art” but I’d like to see a little less of it. Every bar/club has drag. What was once special is now generic. It’s everywhere, and often not good. Time for someone to bring something different into the mix. West Hollywood is oversaturated with the same thing.
Any teenage girl can take a portable stereo system into any public space, dance and sing along with Lady Gaga songs, and few people would give it a second thought. But if someone does EXACTLY THE SAME THING while dressed in a big wig, sequined gown, and extravagant makeup, Tennessee would have them arrested. There is no constitutional justification for this double standard, and this bill will never survive a court challenge. You can’t criminalize someone for how they’re dressed.