Delaware Democrat Apologizes After Deriding Opponent's Drag Show

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday November 8, 2019

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques backed away from comments he made about a drag show put on by his opponent in the upcoming primary.

Jacques apologized for his remarks about the show - a fundraiser at which Eric Morrison, a longtime drag performer and challenger for Jacques' seat - performed, reported local newspaper the Delaware News Journal, but Morrison - who said he appreciated the apology - took the opportunity to remind voters of Jacques history of anti-LGBTQ votes.

Morrison's drag fundraiser took place last month. Jacques derided the show, telling the New Journal that the event was "off base" for constituents.

Calling the show "unbelievable," Jacques declared, "You can have fundraisers, I don't care about that. But dressing in drag? Really?"

Jacques' sentiments might strike some as anachronistic, given the popularity of art form in contemporary America. The long-running reality show "RuPaul's Drag Race," in which contestants vie for top honors in the field of drag entertainment, reportedly drew 700,000 viewers for its Season 11 finale last May. The show regularly commands similar numbers, and on occasion has drawn even higher numbers - on at least one occasion, nearly 100,000 viewers tuned in to see highly skilled performers compete while "dressing in drag."

Jacques also apparently played the religion card, saying he wasn't "sure he represents the people who attend... places of religion," and adding, "If he's actually having a fundraiser in drag, I don't think [the district's] churches would endorse that."

A number of Democratic state lawmakers hastened to respond to Jacques' comments the same day they were made, media reports noted.

A joint statement from House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, and House Majority Whip Larry Mitchell decried Jacques' comments, assuring constituents that "We remain committed to protecting the rights and equality for all residents, and part of that is addressing shortcomings or issues when they arise."

Jacques, too, was quick to respond, issuing his regrets for his own words.

"It is wrong to attempt to pass judgment or impose one person's belief structure onto others," the state representative said in a statement, going on to acknowledge that his role in government was "to represent all constituents of the 27th District, regardless of gender, race, creed, orientation or identity, period."

Morrison expressed appreciation for Jacques' owning of those remarks, but he also framed his response in terms of his opponent's legislative history, noting that "Rep. Jaques voted against same-sex marriage in 2013 [when state legislators approved marriage equality] and refused to vote yes or no on banning the barbaric practice of conversion therapy for Delaware's LGBT minors in 2013."

Delaware joined 14 other states last year in banning the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" on minors. "Conversion therapy" claims to address the "issue" of "unwanted same-sex attraction" and suggests that it can "turn" gay people into heterosexuals. Reputable mental health professionals have thoroughly denounced the practice as ineffective and potentially harmful.

Several more states have banned the practice on minors since then, bringing the national total to 18.

But that progress has not obscured Morrison's recollection of Jacques' legislative history when it comes to LGTBQ constituents. "Those votes trouble me today, Morrison said, "and will always trouble me."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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