Lawmaker shows photo of Trump, Giuliani in drag to protest NDAA amendment

Lawmaker shows photo of Trump, Giuliani in drag to protest NDAA amendment

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on Thursday protested an amendment added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that bars funding for drag performances with a blown-up photo of former President Trump and Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Trump attorney, dressed in drag.

An amendment filed this week to the annual defense policy bill by Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) would prevent funding made available by the measure from being used for drag events. The amendment passed Thursday by voice vote.

“The bulk of our fighting forces are inspired by GI Joe; they are not inspired by ‘be a Barbie girl in a Barbie world,’” Brecheen said Thursday while introducing his amendment. He accused the Department of Defense, which banned drag shows on military bases last year, and President Biden of “pushing a sexual agenda” on service members and young children.

Garcia on Thursday criticized Brecheen’s amendment, which he said reflects anti-LGBTQ sentiment more broadly.

“My Republican colleagues want us to believe that gays are trying to murder us,” Garcia said Thursday while gesturing to a meme of Jennifer Coolidge’s character in HBO’s “White Lotus.” “They want to believe that drag is harmful or immoral or wrong. This is completely ridiculous.”

“Now, I hate to break it to my Republican colleagues, but LGBTQ people have fought and died for this country since the American Revolution, even if they were forced to hide their true selves,” Garcia continued. “The USO and Red Cross hosted drag shows during World War II — the army that defeated Hitler and saved the world included drag queens.”

Garcia added that former President Reagan, who began his career as a Hollywood actor, starred in the 1943 film “This is the Army,” about an actor whose WWI and WWII musicals include drag performers.

“And he’s not the only Republican president who knew that drag can be fun and sometimes silly,” Garcia said, accompanied by the blown-up photo of Trump and Giuliani. The image is from a comedy sketch the duo recorded in 2000, when Giuliani was mayor of New York City, for the Mayor’s Inner Circle Press Roast that year.

In the sketch, a video of which resurfaced during the 2016 presidential election, Giuliani, dressed as his drag persona “Rudia,” flirts with Trump, who then pushes his face into Giuliani’s fake breasts.

Drag in recent years has emerged as an unexpected political flashpoint, with Democrats and Republicans divided on whether performances are appropriate for young viewers. Advocates have defended drag as a form of self-expression that challenges gender and societal norms and promotes inclusivity.

Lawmakers in at least a dozen states this year filed legislation meant to curtail drag events that take place in public or where they may be seen by minors, though nearly all of them failed to become law. Six Republican-led states last year passed legislation restricting drag, but enforcement of four of them — in Florida, Montana, Texas and Tennessee — is blocked by federal court orders.

Legislation filed last year by Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) would have prohibited the use of federal funds for drag events, and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) in 2022 introduced legislation that sought to bar federal dollars from being used to expose children to “sexually-oriented” materials, which he said at the time includes drag shows.

House Republicans passed a similar ban on drag in last year’s NDAA, though that and other amendments criticized for targeting LGBTQ people were scrapped from the final bill.

Garcia, one of just 12 openly LGBTQ members of Congress, has previously protested legislation and rhetoric targeting drag shows. In a March 2023 interview with The Atlantic, Garcia called drag “an important art form” and pledged to protect performers from attacks led largely by conservatives.

Garcia last June, during which LGBTQ Pride month is recognized, celebrated the accomplishments of RuPaul Charles, the superstar drag queen and host of the reality series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” on the House floor, in part to protest anti-drag laws.

House lawmakers on Thursday also voted to add amendments preventing funds made available in the annual defense bill from being used by transgender service members and dependents for gender-affirming health care — care that is considered medically necessary by every major medical organization.

Other GOP-backed amendments under consideration would ban certain books with LGBTQ themes and characters from schools funded by the Department of Defense and prevent military facilities from flying Pride flags.

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