Pentagon cancels drag show at Air Force base as Pride Month begins

The Pentagon forced an Air Force base in Nevada to cancel a drag show at the start of Pride Month that had already been approved, according to three officials familiar with the situation.

The drag show at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was scheduled for June 1 and recognizes the importance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members and civilian personnel. According to a military official, it would have been the third annual drag show held at Nellis, known as “The Home of the Fighter Pilot” and the Air Force’s center for advanced fighter training.

Despite the previous two events being held at the base, this one was not allowed to move forward after the Pentagon intervened on Wednesday, according to two defense officials, forcing the base to cancel the event or move it to a different location.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken in support Pride Month in the military, saying in 2021 that “LGBTQ+ citizens have fought to defend our rights and freedoms from the founding of our nation to the Civil War” and beyond. But he has drawn a line at allowing drag events or shows to be hosted at military bases, one of the officials said, making clear that DoD funds cannot be appropriated for such events.

“Consistent with Secretary Austin’s congressional testimony, the Air Force will not host drag events at its installations or facilities,” an Air Force official said. “Commanders have been directed to either cancel or relocate these events to an off-base location.”

NBC News was first to report on the show’s cancellation.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said drag shows are not an appropriate use of US military bases.

“As Secretary Austin has said, the DOD will not host drag events at US military installations or facilities,” spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. “Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is not a suitable use of DOD resources. Our Service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets.”

In March, Austin told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that “drag shows are not something the Defense Department supports or funds.” Pressed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida who has attacked the Defense Department over what he claims is a focus on “wokeism,” Austin reiterated at the time that “this is not something we support or fund.”

During the same exchange, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley said he wanted to look into the occurrences of drag shows on military bases to “find out what actually is going on there.”

“I’d like to take a look at those, because I don’t agree with those,” he said. “I think those things shouldn’t be happening.”

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