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Google distances itself from drag performance after employee petition

TechnologyGoogle distances itself from drag performance after employee petition

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The Google logo is seen with the rainbow flag as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and social movements in New York City, June 7, 2022.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Google is distancing itself from a drag performance it planned as the closing event for Pride month after a group of employees circulated an internal petition opposing it, claiming religious discrimination.

Each year, Google sponsors a series of Pride events in San Francisco and other locations for employees and the public. This year, the closing event was a “Pride and Drag Show” featuring popular performer “Peaches Christ,” who was scheduled to perform Tuesday at LGBTQ+ bar Beaux in San Francisco to “wrap up this amazing month,” according to a now-removed internal description of the event viewed by CNBC.

However, employees noticed the company removed the show from the internal company events page at around the same time a petition began circulating opposing the event, according to internal discussions viewed by CNBC.

A few hundred employees signed the petition opposing the drag performance, claiming it sexualizes and disrespects Christian co-workers, and accused Google of religious discrimination, according to the petition viewed by CNBC. “Their provocative and inflammatory artistry is considered a direct affront to the religion beliefs and sensitivities of Christians,” the petition stated, referring to the drag performer.

Google confirmed to CNBC that it no longer categorized the performance as a Google-recognized diversity, equity and inclusion event. The company set up a separate social gathering at Google offices that it is now encouraging employees to attend instead.

An internal team planned the closing drag event “without going through our standard events process,” said spokesperson Chris Pappas in a statement to CNBC. “While the event organizers have shifted the official team event onsite, the performance will go on at the planned venue — and it’s open to the public, so employees can still attend.”

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Pappas added, “We’ve long been very proud to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. Our Pride celebrations have regularly featured drag artists for many years, including several this year.”

The company did not address whether the employee petition played a part in the decision to change its closing event.

The petition states that organizers complained to People Operations, Google’s human resources department, and claimed the venue violates one of Google’s event guidelines, which bans sexuality explicit activity. The petition also demands an apology from organizers and promoters of the event.

Some employees criticized the petition, saying the complaints were subjective and feed into political culture wars, according to internal discussions viewed by CNBC. Drag shows have been a target of religious and conservative organizations and politicians leading up to the 2024 presidential election. That includes a flurry of legislative proposals backed by GOP governors taking aim at drag events. 

Employees also criticized Google leadership for what they viewed as the quiet removal of the event from the internal website and a buckling to petitioners’ pressure. A company spokesperson said changes to the event were communicated to a team employee resource group last week.

San Francisco venues host Pride events every June, which is recognized as Pride month, and those events commonly include drag shows of various stage acts. Google is one of many corporate sponsors of various Pride events that also include fireside chats with influential figures and community documentary screenings for the public and employees.

The company’s Pride website features several affirmations supporting the LGBTQ+ community with statements such as “A Space to Belong,” writing that “a global shutdown reaffirmed our universal need for the inclusive spaces that bring us together and celebrate belonging.”

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