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Zion Banks Drops Pride Sponsorship Support Over Drag Show

Zions Bank and Boise Pride

Boise Pride organizers said that they expect a large turnout, regardless of the bank's decision.

At least one sponsor has pulled support for an Idaho eventafter the Republican party and far-right groups called it inappropriate.

On Sunday, there will be a drag show for kids at the Boise Pride Festival. However, the event will have one sponsor fewer as a result of pressure from far-right groups who protested on social media.

Among the abuse online, authorities discovered a post that showed a gun with the comment, "We can't expect God to do everything. Sunday, September 9, 2022, let's start at the Fred Meyer pride parade," local station KTVB reports.

As a result of these remarks and an increase in threats to LGBTQ+ communities, Pride is enhancing security, the station reports. In addition, concerned citizens notified the Boise Police Department about the remarks.

On Wednesday afternoon, Dorothy Moon, the Idaho Republican Party chair, released a statement attacking Democrats and the LGBTQ+ community.

"Boise Mayor McLean campaigned as a moderate, but she has governed like her radical colleagues in Seattle and Portland," Moon wrote. "It's no wonder that she's now put Boise in the middle of a national firestorm over the sexualization of children. To be clear, this is no sleight-of-hand or political wordsmithing: Idaho's Democrat party believes it is not only okay but laudable to encourage children to engage in public displays of sexuality. For those who have been following the radicalization of the Democrat party, this should come as no surprise."

The Advocate's inquiries with Moon's spokesperson went unaddressed.

Boise Pride sponsor Zions Bank withdrew from the event Wednesday. A statement said the bank was previously unaware of the performance involving children.

"Over the years, Zions Bank has supported a variety of Pride events because they are an important part of our support for our LGBTQ employees and allies and are representative of our efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace and community. This support for all of our employees and communities remains unchanged. However, when we committed to our sponsorship of this year's Boise Pride event, we were unaware of the event's activities involving children/minors. Since learning of these specific activities, we have made the decision to withdraw our participation in this year's Boise Pride event and have communicated this to the event organizers."

Zions Bank did not respond to The Advocate's request for comment.

Boise Pride addressed Moon's statement on Twitter.

The organization wrote, "The overwhelming number of companies that sponsor the Boise Pride Festival are local and have a significant local presence. They feel strongly about supporting the LGBTQ+ community and our Pride celebration, and we are grateful for their support. The drag kids performance is a celebration of self-expression and confidence. The only perversion and sexualization of this performance are coming from extremists and people like Dorothy Moon, who are twisting it into something it is not."

The statement goes on, "The kids performing have the enthusiastic support of their parents. Often when younger people come out, they struggle with their identity, self-acceptance, and self-expression. Dressing in costume and performing builds that confidence, encourages individuality, and ultimately is empowering. Drag is a powerful form of creative expression and offers a community to youth who are looking to feel accepted and loved, things they often don't experience at home or at school. Seeing others like you on stage offers a beacon of visibility and hope for LGBTQ+ youth, and that is one of the reasons Boise Pride exists and why we celebrate Pride."

Far-right extremist groups, led by online trolls like Libs of Tiktok and Gays Against Groomers on Twitter, as well as right-wing activists and influencers like Christopher Ruffo, the likely originator of the critical race theory red herring introduced into the political ether recently, focused faux outrage at the event to disrupt it.

A drag show called Drag Kids is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Sunday at the Boise Pride Festival, described in the official Pride Guide as a show unlike others, featuring performances from 11 to 18-year-old kids who "are ready to bring it all to the Boise Pride Festival stage! Come and cheer them on as they bring drag to the younger generation!" the guide reads.

A spokesperson for Boise Pride sent The Advocate the following statement in response to Zions Bank's announcement that it was pulling its participation:

"Zions Bank has been a valued sponsor and supporter of Boise Pride for many years. We are saddened to learn this is how they have chosen to respond to clearly anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions. No sponsor at any level of support receives approval of the Boise Pride stage lineup. We have shared our statement on what the Drag Kids performance is and its importance to the identity and self-expression of the LGBTQ+ youth involved as well as those watching. Minors have participated in the Boise Pride Festival both on and off stage for many years. Pride and inclusivity do not begin at age 18. It is important for families and LGBTQ+ people of all ages to see themselves reflected in society, on screens, and on stages in positive, affirming ways, and we stand behind our entire Boise Pride entertainment lineup."

Idaho has seen a steady exit of progressive residents and an increase in conservatives moving into the state from elsewhere in the country, often from the reddest areas.

A statewide survey of public attitudes conducted by Boise State University in 2020 found Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly two to one and bring with them a hatred of "socialism" and distrust of liberals.

Boise Pride representatives also said that the organization has been working with the Boise Police Department, Idaho State Police, and private security firms to ensure the safety of all attendees.

"Security is always a top priority for us and since the thwarted Patriot Front threat in Coeur d'Alene earlier this summer, we have been talking to local law enforcement in advance of this year's Festival and have been monitoring social media and online chatter," a spokesperson for Boise Pride said. "At this time, no credible threats or potential violence have been identified. We do expect some protestors. The festival grounds are enclosed by fencing, so any protestors will be outside the festival grounds. Ultimately, we expect a safe and fun celebration, but have also taken all necessary safety precautions. We have also received a significant amount of community support and we anticipate greater attendance this year, especially on Sunday for the Drag Kids and Drag Storytime programs."

To that point, Boise Pride had one message to those who strive to denigrate the LGBTQ+ community.

"It's not a radical liberal agenda to accept people for who they are. It's human," Boise Pride wrote.

Related: The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would be surging Health and Human Services vaccine resources to Boise Pride to vaccinate as many attendees as possible against monkeypox.

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