Republicans punish Dems for staging a ‘drag story hour’ for adults in the AZ House basement.

A Democratic lawmaker reserved a room in the Arizona House of Representatives' basement so Planned Parenthood could do a "drag story hour" as part of a stakeholder meeting. The chamber's Republican leadership has denounced the event, and said Democrats can no longer use meeting rooms in the building. Screenshot via X/Twitter

Democratic members of the Arizona House of Representatives are having their privileges to use meeting rooms in the chamber revoked after they used a room in the basement to host a drag story hour alongside Planned Parenthood on Tuesday. 

Rep. Lorena Austin, D-Mesa, the nation’s first nonbinary Chicane legislator, reserved the room so that Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona could hold a drag story hour on Tuesday morning. When Republicans, who have spent the last several years crusading against drag and the LGBTQ community, learned about the event, it sparked an outrcy. 

“Democrat Rep. Lorena Austin deliberately misled House leadership to reserve a conference room to host a drag story hour with Planned Parenthood,” Speaker Ben Toma said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Tuesday morning. “Use of House facilities for radical activism to promote dangerously perverse ideology will not be tolerated while I am speaker.” 

Toma went on to say that he ordered that Democratic members have “lost the privilege of accessing House meeting rooms until trust can be restored.” 

Austin requested the use of the room for a Planned Parenthood stakeholder meeting and did not mention hosting a “drag story hour” event, according to House Republican caucus spokesman Andrew Wilder. 

But Austin said the room was reserved for the legislature’s LGBTQ+ Caucus, of which she is a member, to meet with stakeholders on a day when the legislature is not in session.

“It is nothing short of ridiculous that I have been described as dishonest, deceitful and perverse and have been subjected to calls for punishment and expulsion,” Austin said in a statement. “We were completely transparent when we reserved the room, and the content was not, or should not be, controversial. In total approximately 20 people attended (all adults) because the House is currently only conducting business on Wednesdays, and today was a Tuesday.” 

Austin said that the event was “educational and completely within the mission of our LGTBQ+ Caucus,” adding that she will “never apologize for teaching people to be inclusive, to accept others as they are, and to stand up to hate and bigotry.”

The condemnation of Democrats and the drag artist they invited to a meeting stands in stark contrast to the welcome that GOP lawmakers gave last week to anti-abortion activists who crowded the chamber as lawmakers debated — and ultimately passed — a bill to repeal an 1864 near-total abortion ban.

“I also want to address all of you in the gallery. I want to give you a friendly reminder this is not our House, it is your House,” Rep. Rachel Jones, R-Tucson, said April 24 on the House floor when introducing members of an Arizona anti-abortion group that were in the gallery. 

Jones said Tuesday that the drag story hour was a “desecration of the people’s house.” 

“I guess this isn’t the people’s House after all,” House Democratic Whip Nancy Gutierrez said in a statement from House Democrats Tuesday afternoon. “No one was misled about scheduling this event. It was described as a drag story hour when Representative Austin’s assistant called to reserve the room. I was there.” 

Gutierrez said that she and others “listened to a person wearing makeup and a sparkly outfit read a book and some poems about inclusion, acceptance, and LGBTQ history” calling it “lovely, funny and inspiring,” pushing back on claims of it being “perverse” as Republicans have said. 

“We have had anti-abortion activists welcomed into the House to sing and jeer and mock our members, while our entire caucus has been banned from using House conference rooms because of how a person was dressed and what they had to say,” Gutierrez said. “Our leadership and Representative Austin have spoken with Speaker Toma to get the facts on the table and reduce the tension. We are working toward a resolution but are not all the way there yet. We will always stand with our members and constituents in the face of discrimination, and we denounce any kind of knee-jerk retaliation.”

Republican state Sen. Anthony Kern, from Glendale, was the first to post about the event on social media, specifically calling out Toma. Kern is Toma’s opponent in the GOP primary for Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District. 

Kern, who was recently indicted by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes for his role in a fake elector scheme, has invited members of his church ahead of key votes on abortion issues where they spoke in tongues on the floor

Drag story hours have become a target of conservative activists and far-right extremists who make dubious claims that the events are meant to “groom” children into accepting LGBTQ beliefs or pedophilia. The attention has led to physical attacks on members of that community as well as other threats of violence

In a statement to the Mirror, Drag Story Hour Arizona, whose organizers have become targets by conservative activists, said they were invited by Austin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to the Capitol

“This morning, Drag Story Hour Arizona was invited by Rep. Lorena Austin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to present a special story hour for legislators and staffers at the state capitol,” the statement said. “We appreciated the opportunity to meet members of our legislature and educate them about our organization and how we promote inclusive early childhood literacy.”

No children were present at the drag story hour in the House basement on Tuesday.

“The fascism continues at the State House under GOP control,” Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, said on X. “Speaker Toma, Rep. Austin is a duly elected representative of the people who has the same rights as you to welcome community members to THEIR house. This event is hurting no one. Cut the nonsense.”

“This is just another example of Speaker Toma showing how out of touch he is with the values of Arizonans and their support for the LGTBQ community,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona President and CEO Angela Florez said in a statement to the Arizona Mirror. 


“Let’s be clear, at Planned Parenthood Arizona we are proud to offer gender affirming care services and provide essential health care to everyone. We thank Rep. Lorena Austin for being a staunch ally and her continued support in our fight for reproductive freedom,” Florez said. “We will be sure to invite Speaker Toma to the next Drag Story Hour.”

Kern and Sen. Justine Wadsack, a Republican from Tucson, have both called for ethics complaints to be filed. Wadsack has also said Austin should be expelled. Kern has attempted to pass legislation that would have criminalized drag performances. The measure was vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs. Other republicans are also calling for Toma to restrict Austin’s access in the House.

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