Drag queen story time comes to Independence Hall

Tribune Content Agency

Drag queens Brittany Lynn and Morgan Wells read Giraffes Can’t Dance, a book promoting self-acceptance, to children in front of Independence Hall in a new Pride Month public service announcement encouraging LGBTQ+ travelers to book a trip to the city.

Visit Philadelphia unveiled the 30-second clip on Friday. Starting next week, the ad will air on CBS stations in the Philly and New York markets for the rest of the month.

The $250,000 Pride Month campaign comes two decades after city tourism officials first reached out to gay and lesbian travelers nationwide with the “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay” slogan.

“In support and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, who are having their rights infringed upon in many places throughout our country, we’re sending a message that our city is an open and inclusive destination,” Visit Philadelphia president Angela Val said in a statement.

The commercial comes at a time when drag queen story times have become a lightning rod for anti-LGBTQ vitriol nationwide. The events, often held at libraries and schools for children under 10, have drawn protests and threats of violence from far-right extremists. Republican lawmakers in 14 states have moved to ban or restrict drag, with most of the legislation focusing on story hours and other events where children are present.

The animosity has led some story hour organizers to add security; leaders of an Ohio church did so in March after a man tried to burn down the building with Molotov cocktails to stop the event. Last fall, Chester County’s first OutFest was postponed after the West Chester Borough Council president said he received hateful pushback about scheduled drag performances.

At the same time, LGBTQ events and drag shows have become increasingly popular in recent years, including in suburban and exurban towns across Pennsylvania. Philly’s Pride celebration is set to take place Sunday, and the Visit Philly ad will air at the Philadelphia Gay News Pride Brunch and Stonewall Awards the same day.

About two-thirds of LGBTQ travelers said they considered Philadelphia an LGBTQ-friendly destination, according to a recent Ipsos market research survey provided to Visit Philly. Tourism officials said they hope to increase that percentage with the latest ad campaign, as well as year-round marketing efforts to reach LGBTQ communities.

“It’s our responsibility as the organization marketing Philadelphia to ensure our efforts promoting the city are a direct reflection of our residents and those we invite to visit,” said Neil Frauenglass, chief marketing officer at Visit Philadelphia.

The drag story time clip was filmed not only in front of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed, but also on the site of one of the country’s first major demonstrations for equal rights for gay people.

At the end of the ad, the words “In Pursuit of A More Perfect Union” appear on the screen, with the word perfect changing to kind, then compassionate, then respectful.