Michigan’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) branch filed a complaint Thursday against congressional candidate Peter Meijer alleging he discriminated against a group of down syndrome drag performers after he prevented them from performing at his building.
The ACLU believes canceling Drag Syndrome, a British-based group, raises questions about disability and sexual discrimination. The civil rights group’s complaint accuses Meijer of violating Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination.
Furthermore, the complaint says Meijer’s concerns about Drag Syndrome are “based on harmful stereotypes and myths.”
“Mr. Meijer is denying performers with down syndrome the opportunity to perform because he has made the faulty assumption that these performers lack the ability to understand and to consent to perform, due to their Down syndrome.” Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, said. “Despite information provided to Mr. Meijer that clearly indicates otherwise, he has chosen to single out these performers because of their diagnosis.”
Meijer reacted to ACLU’s complaint Friday on Twitter.
“Fair to say I didn’t expect Down syndrome Drag shows to be a defining issue of my congressional campaign… Come what may, I won’t apologize for doing what’s right,” he said.
Fair to say I didn’t expect Down syndrome Drag shows to be a defining issue of my congressional campaign… Come what may, I won’t apologize for doing what’s right. https://t.co/EMtXM9hV7E
— Peter Meijer for Congress (@VoteMeijer) September 6, 2019
The incident occurred in August when Meijer sent a letter to Project 1, detailing why he did not want them performing at Tanglefoot. Drag Syndrome was set to perform at Art Project 1, which takes place at Meijer’s building. However, he did not feel comfortable allowing Drag Syndrome to perform.
“This is not a decision I have arrived at lightly, As the nature of Drag Syndrome’s performance became clear, I consulted with various relevant communities to ensure my decision was made as free of personal bias as possible. I spoke with parents of the differently abled, people who had family members with down syndrome, and members of the LGBTQ and artist community. In nearly every conversation, concerns were raised about the potential exploitation of the vulnerable,” Meijer wrote in an August 19 letter.
DisArt, the organizers for Drag Syndrome’s performance, rescheduled the group’s performance to this weekend at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The disability advocacy organization originally leaked Meijer’s letter. He believes DisArt released his letter to sell more tickets for Drag Syndrome’s event.
Meijer told The New York Times that he has been called a bigot and a transphobe for making his decision.
“I fundamentally don’t understand how someone can take my very good faith concern about the potential for exploitation and spin that into discriminating against people with a disability,” he said.
The 31-year-old is vying for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s Third District. Currently, Justin Amash is the representative for this district.
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