Portland proposed drag show ban on holdPosted: Updated:
Portland city leaders say they will wait until they get an opinion from the Attorney General before a final vote on a proposed drag show ban.
Rally cries could be heard from both sides Monday night ahead of the city council meeting.
"Love the sinner. Hate the sin. We don't hate those people. We hate what they stand for," said a woman in favor of the drag show ban.
Mayor Kenneth Wilber said he’s heard from several residents who feel the show is not appropriate for Main Street.
“The values of our community are reflected in the ordinance. We do not want those types of things in our normal business district, so I support it 100 percent,” Wilber said.
Raymond Guillermo said performers wear dresses, wigs, and makeup, and lip sync to popular songs.
“That’s all we do. We don't know what the fuss is about,” Guillermo said.
Guillermo said it was a packed house Aug. 12 at Envy Bar in Portland for Elite Production's first drag show.
“It’s not just for the LGBT community. It's for straight people, it's for transgender people, it's for anybody. We want a place where everybody can come and feel like they can be themselves,” Guillermo said.
City law prohibits adult entertainment in business districts. The ordinance revises the definition of adult entertainment to include shows that feature male or female impersonators.
"We do keep our clothes on. We do not by any means take out clothes off," said drag queen Nikole Grace.
She said it's time for the small town to embrace diversity.
"For me growing up I was one of those small town kids. I was bullied all of my life and now that I can make a stand for what I believe in and what I want to do, I am going to do it," said Grace.
City leaders say the ordinance would still allow drag shows in the industrial district.
Guillermo said that doesn't leave many options.
“There are churches everywhere. There are schools everywhere. There are residential areas everywhere. So where will it allow us to perform? It won't,” Guillermo said.
Mayor Wilber said the decision to draw up the ordinance came from several concerned community members that do not want this show downtown.
Before the public hearing, dozens gathered outside.
Both those for and against the ban were rallying.
It got heated at times.
UPDATE (Sept. 15, 2017, 9:45 p.m.):
Since News4 brought you this story, the American Civil Liberties of Tennessee sent a letter to Portland's mayor and Board of Alderman on behalf of Elite Productions and Envy Restaurant Bar & Grill, which demanded they drop their "proposed, unconstitutional ban" on drag shows.
The shared portions of the letter in a statement to local media:
The ordinance, No. 17-59, seeks to classify drag shows as "adult cabaret," which the city describes as a form of "adult-oriented business" that "may be erotic [in] nature." Courts have held that government can impose some reasonable restrictions on adult entertainment. However, as ACLU-TN's letter states, "Artistic expression is not sexual or erotic in nature simply because it involves male or female impersonators and, therefore, it cannot be regulated like 'adult-oriented businesses.'"
"The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. "It's discriminatory and unconstitutional to single out male and female impersonators in a bid to shut down their speech. If members of the city council are uncomfortable with the drag show, they do not need to attend the performance. But they can't ban it."
Click here to read the full letter.
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