At issue in Portland, located in Middle Tennessee near the Kentucky state line, is whether drag shows can be considered an adult-oriented business and banned from residential and commercial areas. A proposed amendment to a city ordinance would restrict drag shows to industrial zones.
The conflict began this summer when Elite Drag Star Productions put on two shows at Envy Bar & Restaurant on Main Street. City officials received several complaints. The production company plans to hold a “Fall Ball” at the bar Saturday.
Drag shows feature men flamboyantly dressed as women, often acting in provocative ways.
At a heated city council meeting last week, city leaders said they would delay a final vote until getting an opinion from the state attorney general, according to WSMV Channel 4. They said a decision would come no later than Nov. 6.
However, drag performers say they don’t take off their clothes and their shows are for everyone and promote diversity.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, no matter what you are wearing. 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.”
The conflict is making national news. A LifeSiteNews article noted that “many were concerned that the drag shows were not family friendly, and that the events also served as an occasion for promiscuous hookups and to propagate homosexuality.”
Portland currently defines an adult-oriented business as “entertainment that may be erotic in nature; including exotic dancers, table dancers, private dancers, strippers, or similar entertainers.” The proposed amendment would add “male or female impersonators” to the list.
Proponents of the change emphasize that it would not be a total ban on drag shows, but rather a restriction on where they can be held.