Drag queens sue state rep. for defaming them

  • Michael McMahon shows a book while performing as Clara Divine at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry last year. File

Manchester Ink Link
Published: 5/12/2022 4:35:28 PM

A Derry state representative is being sued for allegedly defaming two drag queens when he allegedly said one was a convicted sexual offender and the other was “rubbing butts” with children during a Drag Queen Story Time event in 2021 in Derry.

Robert Champion of Bow and Michael McMahon of Danville are suing state Rep. David Love of Derry who they allege defamed them. The lawsuit was filed April 7 in Merrimack County Superior Court.

Messages left Tuesday for Love for comment were not returned.

According to the lawsuit, Champion and McMahon are both gay men. Champion is a husband, father and small business owner who also is an artist who sometimes performs as drag queen Monique Toosoon.

McMahon is an artist who performs as drag queen Clara Divine.

Champion said Love “wantonly, maliciously and oppressively” defamed him by falsely accusing him of being a convicted sex offender. On June 12, 2019, Champion hosted Drag Queen Teen Time at the Nashua Public Library, an offshoot of Drag Queen Story Hour founded in 2015 in San Francisco.

Love repeated the false accusation multiple times in February 2022, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 5, 2022, Love introduced House Bill 1529, which was tabled as inexpedient to legislate. The lawsuit contends the bill was a legislative effort to oppose Drag Queen Story Hour by requiring “prospective employees and volunteers of public libraries to obtain a background check prior to commencing employment or volunteer service.”

On Feb. 20, 2022, while speaking before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee in support of the bill, Love said background checks were necessary for library volunteers based on the lies about Champion and McMahon, according to the lawsuit.

McMahon contends Love “wantonly, maliciously and oppressively” defamed him when he falsely accused him of sexual assault by “rubbing butts” with children at a Drag Queen Story Time program in Derry.

In June 2021 at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, McMahon, performing as Clara Divine, never stepped down from the stage which was 3½ feet high and about 20 feet away from the children, Tupelo owner Scott Hayward told Manchester Ink Link last year. After the event, some kids went backstage and took pictures with Clara, he said.

“That statement is about as false as it can possibly get,” Hayward said of Love’s depiction of what took place.

Nationwide there is opposition to Drag Queen Story Hour. Typically, the show is hosted by a local drag queen at a library. Its intent is to inspire in youth a love of reading while also teaching deeper lessons about diversity, inclusion, loving yourself for who you are and appreciating others.

Opponents of Drag Queen Story Hour have tried to stop performances throughout the country through litigation. In Texas, a lawsuit – Christopher v. Lawson – was filed raising “religious objections to drag queens, the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning (LGBTQ) community, and same-sex marriage.” The case was dismissed.

A Louisiana lawsuit – Gidry v. Elberson – sought to stop a Drag Queen Story Hour at a library alleging it has the “goal of indoctrinating minors to non-secular ideology that is immoral, indecent, lewd, and obscene. They claimed DQSH seeks to seduce minors into cultivating sympathy for or adopting the LGBTQ lifestyle. That case also was dismissed.

Opponents also tried to stop the story hour through legislation. The National Coalition against Censorship said legislators in South Dakota proposed, and then withdrew, a bill that “would have broadly prevented state and local government from recognizing a wide range of LBTQ rights ... including a ban on Drag Queen Story Hour events in public libraries and schools.”

Others in New Hampshire, besides Love, oppose it. Cornerstone Action, N.H. non-profit corporation, on Jan. 5, 2019, described the program that Champion was to host in Nashua as “not even about outreach to LGBTQ+ youth. This is about grooming minors and normalizing sexual behavior.”

Love, according to the lawsuit, turned to “serial lies and defamation in New Hampshire” when efforts to stop the program failed in other states’ legislatures.

The lawsuit says Love’s “lies about a convicted sex offender” hosting the program in Nashua (Champion) and the accusation of alleged impropriety by McMahon in Derry was understood by those who know about the Drag Queen Teen Time program in Nashua and Derry to be of and concerning Champion and McMahon, respectively.

The lawsuit also cites the Manchester Ink Link article in which Love told a reporter he “hopes to god he isn’t a sex offender,’ but that he remembers reading about it in a newspaper over two years ago. ‘I don’t know if it was a Boston Herald or the Union Leader or what,’ ” Love said.

Love also told the Union Leader that “he was ‘told by a couple constituents’ about the claim that McMahon was ‘rubbing butts’ with children.”

Love also made comments about the drag queen program on Feb. 15, 2022, at a Derry Town Council meeting. He introduced himself as a state representative.

“Leave the kids alone. Let them grow up normal, you know, decide what they want after they hit puberty just like everybody else did. How would you feel if somebody brought, you know, a stripper, a pole dancer, to teach kids, uh, you know, it’s, no. Leave them alone.”

According to the lawsuit, during his speech Love made more false statements about Champion in an exchange with a Derry Town Councilor who told Love he lied during testimony. Love denied it.

“Yes, you did. You accused the Nashua drag queen as being a pedophile, excuse me, as being a sex offender list. The Nashua ...”

“And that’s what I read,” Love said.

The lawsuit contends Love’s statements concerning Champion and McMahon were based on “wanton, malicious and oppressive animus towards people who are not ‘normal.’ ”

Love’s statements, according to the lawsuit, were wanton because they were published with reckless indifference or disregard of their consequences including by causing hatred to be directed at gay men who perform as drag queens.

Love acknowledge in a direct message to Champion on Facebook that his statements were “erroneous’ and, in a direct message on Facebook to McMahon’s mother, that his statements concerning her son were “incorrect.”

Champion and McMahon are represented by attorneys Timothy J. McLaughlin, James J. Armillay and Olivia F. Bensinger of Shaheen and Gordon in Concord.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.
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