What does the passing of a bill restricting drag performances mean for the Lexington Pride Festival?

What does the passing of a bill restricting drag performances mean for the Lexington Pride Festival?
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 9:57 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Senate passed a bill targeting drag performances on Friday.

Senate Bill 115 would ban drag shows on publicly-owned property, and anywhere minors are present.

A big question on the minds of many while we wait to see what the House decides to do with this bill and its current language is what does that mean for the large Lexington Pride Festival?

Senator Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, says the bill’s intent is to restrict drag performances to adults only.

“This isn’t against the LGBTQ community. This is against sexually explicit content being brought before children,” said Tichenor. “But now that they’re coming into the public sector, we need to put some guidelines around those because some of those performances are absolutely inappropriate for kids.”

It’s this language the Executive Director of the Lexington Pride Center, Carmen Wamplar-Collins, fears will hurt members of the LGBTQ+ community most.

“If it were truly about protecting children, they wouldn’t need to put the male impersonator, female impersonator, section in there. You could have a bill about not allowing children around any performance that is deemed overtly sexual. Then that’s a different discussion about who decides that. But this is clearly targeted at the LGBTQ community,” said Wamplar-Collins.

The night before the bill passed through the Senate, dozens filled Lexington’s City Hall, asking city leaders for support.

“At the minimum, just discussion of these bills promotes further stigma of the LGBTQ+ community. At the worst, it’s deadly,” said Councilmember Liz Sheehan.

Sheehan led public comment with a drag performance from Uma Jewels. Something that would be illegal if Senate Bill 115 becomes law.

The question on many people’s minds is what will come of the Lexington Pride Festival.

“We’re going to have the pride festival,” said Wamplar-Collins. “I know there’s been a lot of concern about that, but we are going to have drag. We are going to have a pride festival. We don’t know yet how this will land if it gets passed. What it will look like when it does because the language keeps changing. But I can tell you, in this town, you are not going to shove us back in the closet. We aren’t hiding from anybody.”

The Pride Festival brings tens of thousands of people to Lexington each year and is set to be held at the Central Bank Center on June 24. According to its website, the Lexington Center Corporation is a not-for-profit corporate agency of the LFUCG. Which manages and maintains Rupp and the Central Bank Center. The way the bill is written now, if passed, the Pride Festival couldn’t happen there. And children would not be able attend, no matter where it is put on.

“For any type of performance, there are kid-friendly, and there are adult-friendly versions. You wouldn’t take your kid to every concert you go to, but if you know they’re showing up in a space that’s family-friendly, that’s going to be okay for your kids. Same with drag. To single out drag needing a special mention in this bill is detrimental,” said Wamplar-Collins.

Councilmembers Liz Sheehan and Hannah Legris, along with Vice Mayor Dan Wu, drafted a letter they sent to state legislators asking them not to pass what many are calling anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The Pride Center is open to anyone in the community who may need a safe space.