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Sponsors begin to drop after Idaho Republican Party blasts Boise Pride Festival

People waving rainbow flags march the streets of downtown Boise during a Pride parade.

Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon is urging businesses to pull their support from Boise Pride Festival ahead of this weekend’s events.

Moon’s statement issued Wednesday morning criticizes the festival’s sponsors for encouraging the “sexualization” of children.

Instead of bringing “investment and jobs” to Idaho, Moon said, “…they are financing the sexualization of our children and the perverse idea that children should engage in sexual performances with adult entertainers.”

Specifically, she’s blasting an event for kids ages 11-18 who will perform in drag on stage.

Idaho’s top Republican Party official said the festival’s sponsors should “disavow this attack on Idaho’s children” and instead redirect their donations to the Boise Rescue Mission.

Moon’s statement comes just a few months after31 members of a white supremacist group were arrested after they were allegedly set to riot at a Coeur d’Alene Pride event.

Boise Pride Festival organizers forcefully pushed back, calling the remarks “inflammatory.”

Donald Williamson, executive director of Boise Pride Festival, told Boise State Public Radio in an interview that far-right Republican officials like Moon feel more emboldened after the last several years of pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation.

All performers in Drag Kids have the “enthusiastic” support of their parents, Williamson said, with one participant set to perform alongside their mother.

“The only perversion and sexualization of this performance are coming from extremists and people like Dorothy Moon, who is twisting it into something that it is not.”

Williamson said modern drag performances do incorporate sexuality, not unlike pop stars, but that its origins were different.

“Drag was started as a form of self-expression and confidence building and feeling comfortable in your own skin and doing it in a place where you’re accepted for that,” he said.

Boise Pride Festival lists 89 sponsors for 2022. That includes many homegrown heavy hitters, like Albertsons, Boise Cascade, Micron and Simplot, alongside smaller local businesses.

In fact, Williamson said he had to turn away sponsors this year because they didn’t have enough space to accommodate them. During the interview, he said he's not concerned that any will pull their support because of Moon's statement.

However, a few hours after that interview, Zions Bank, originally incorporated under the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Brigham Young, dropped its sponsorship.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Zions Bank said it wasn't aware of the Kids Drag event when it partnered with Boise Pride Festival and withdrew its participation.

Despite that, the bank said its support for its employees and the LGBTQ community "remains unchanged.”

Zions Bank signed up as an "Orange" level sponsor, which according to the organization's brochure meant it contributed $18,000 to the festival. That included a mix of in-kind office space and cash, Williamson said Thursday.

"We are saddened to learn this is how they have chosen to respond to clearly anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions," Williamson wrote in a statement, while also thanking the bank for its years of support.

"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," he said, noting that minors have participated in the festival on and off stage for years.

Less than a day after Zions Bank withdrew its support, Williamson said Zion Cannabis, an Ontario, Ore. marijuana dispensary, said it would fill the empty spot, albeit at a lower sponsorship level.

He said Boise Pride Festival has raised about $11,000 from Zion Cannabis and individuals since Zions Bank announced its decision Wednesday.

Idaho Power has also dropped its sponsorship. Its logo was removed from the festival's online list of supporters and it issued a statement Thursday afternoon.

"Due to programming changes that occurred after our sponsorship and concerns for the safety of our employees and volunteers, we have withdrawn our participation in the Boise Pride event. We will continue to support our diverse communities," wrote a spokesperson for the utility.

Boise Pride Festival has hired more private security – both as a reaction to the Coeur d’Alene arrests and to simply add more personnel as the event has grown in size.

It gets underway Friday evening at Cecil D. Andrus Park in downtown Boise and runs through Sunday afternoon.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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