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Two Baytown Teachers Fired for Attending a Drag Show

Kristi Maris had taught at a private Christian school for 19 years.

Clockwise from top center: Dessie Love-Blake, Suede Doll, teachers Nanci, Kristi Maris, and Tara Dion (Image courtesy Kristi Maris)

Hamburger Mary’s motto is “Eat, Drink, and be …Mary!” That’s exactly what the drag queen-themed burger chain had planned for when they moved their Houston location from Grant Street last year into a downtown building previously occupied by Prohibition Supper Club. The building has multiple dressing rooms, a balcony, and a large stage. Customers can enjoy regular “Mary-oke” nights (karaoke), ’80s-themed parties, and a buffet brunch on the weekends. 

Baytown teacher Kristi Maris thought it all sounded like fun, but her employer, First Baptist Academy of Baytown, didn’t find the humor in her July 24 Facebook post describing her July 13 visit to Hamburger Mary’s. Maris attended the drag show with a co-worker and her daughters, and they had such a good time that they posed for photos with several drag queens, which Maris then posted on Facebook. Both Maris and the co-worker were fired. 

This is what Maris then posted on her Facebook page on July 24:

Hey everybody just wanting to let everyone know what has been going on in my life! As of today I was fired from my Job of 20 years for attending a sing along show at Hamburger Mary’s. Before ever getting the news of my termination it had spread like wildfire in the church and school. They told me because I went to this show and posted a picture I wasn’t walking in a Godly manner. So that being said, please remove yourself from my page if this offends you, if you think this is UnGodly, makes me a pedophile, or causes you to feel uncomfortable.

According to ABC-13, school officials claimed that her attendance at the show violated this line in the school’s operating manual: “I will act in a godly and moral fashion at work, on Facebook and in my community.”

Maris had agreed to the clause, but didn’t think going to a drag show was ungodly. She told an ABC-13 reporter, “They’re entertainers. I would’ve never thought in a million years that this would happen. Never. We were in disbelief. We still are. We were heartbroken. We had relationships with parents and the kids, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye to a lot of the kids.”

OutSmart reached out to both Maris and school officials, but neither responded by press time.

The Baptist Church does not have a standard position on drag performances, since each congregation sets their own code of conduct. Some pastors appreciate the art of drag, while others condemn it. In Texas, anti-drag sentiment has been building as the 88th Legislative Session ultimately passed Senate Bill 12. Originally intended to prohibit children from watching drag shows, SB 12’s language was changed to remove specific references to drag shows, but it also broadened the definition of prohibited shows to include any sexually explicit show in front of children. It was just one of many anti-LGBTQ bills passed by the Republican-majority Texas Legislature this year.

Hamburger Mary’s is hosting a fundraiser to benefit Maris and her co-worker on August 3 at 8:00 p.m. That event, titled Drag Is Not a Crime!, will be hosted by Alexye’us Paris and Dessie Love-Blake. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 713-677-0674.

Love-Blake was hosting the July 13 drag show Maris attended, and appeared in the photo Maris shared on Facebook.

“We all agreed to do the benefit, and all of our tips will go to Kristi. Hopefully it will make up for some of her loss,” Love-Blake says. “I believe Christians are supposed to love. [To fire] someone who has given so much of her life to teaching and take that away from her, I call that ungodly. They are weaponizing the Bible.”


Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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