On April 20, inside the downtown Minneapolis Hilton, Tim Pawlenty, a former governor hoping to be a future governor, will be giving a keynote speech at the Minnesota Family Council’s annual dinner. The council, dedicated to fighting “the growing darkness in our nation” by thumping very specific parts of the Bible, happens to be one of Minnesota’s most vehement anti-queer groups, and they and Pawlenty go way back.
As a state legislator and later governor, Pawlenty was a poster boy for the council's anti-LGBTQ agenda. He vetoed a bill giving local governments the option to offer the same benefits to queer couples as they already did to straight ones. He squashed an anti-bullying bill that would have trained teachers to help kids getting bullied for how they identify or who they have a crush on. Season this with a dash of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and a pinch of “amendment banning gay marriage” and you have a pretty decent soufflé of legislative homophobia.
And now that Pawlenty is back on the political scene, he’s going back into the arms of the council, ready to pick up where he left off.
But, outside the Minneapolis Hilton on April 20, a different party will be forming. A gayer, sexier, gay-sexier party. And it's not exactly heralding Pawlenty's return.
The Tim Pawlenty Drag Party, hosted by OutFront Minnesota, invites drag queens, kings, and queer-identifying folks from all around to convene right in front of the hotel for a special homage to the former governor. Attendees are encouraged to come in whatever makes them feel fabulous, but the event post noted that drag is an important part of queer dissent and expression. And if somebody wants to come in Tim Pawlenty drag? Or maybe “Tim PAWlenty” drag with a fun muzzle and a tail? Hey, no one is going to stop you.
In addition to good old-fashioned queer-friendly fun, the party will include queer performers, a queer DJ, and guest speakers ready to illuminate every detail of Pawlenty's history with the LGBTQ community.
“We just really wanted to have a juxtaposition with what the event was going to be,” OutFront coordinator Oluchi Omeoga said. OutFront estimates about 300 or 400 people will come, based on the Facebook traffic the event has received.
Omeoga is surprised politicians like Pawlenty are still schmoozing with organizations like the Minnesota Family Council -- which has, in the years following its heyday, gotten a reputation for being an extremist group. That ostracizes a lot of Minnesotans, any of whom could be a deciding vote in the governor’s race. It’s not just hateful. It’s bad politics.