Back in 2014, Portland – a city of about 12,000 with 42 churches – found itself in the midst of a row when religious pillocks erected a huge anti-gay billboard above a busy highway.
At the time, Vietnam veteran and Portland resident Ronnie Monday, who initiated placing the billboard, said he felt the statement was necessary.
People have sat down long enough, and this country is going in the wrong direction. Celebrities and the president have had their say that gay marriage and homosexuality is OK, and I think it went against what God said. I needed to do something.
Well, Portland is again in the news, this time for taking the first steps to prevent drag artists from performing in local venues.
The city council recently passed the first reading of an ordinance amendment on adult-oriented businesses that would essentially prohibit a local entertainment company called Elite Drag Star Productions from staging their shows.
Kyle Guillermo, who owns Elite along with Raymond Guillermo and Ronnie Carter, said they are planning a support rally for 4:30 pm at Portland City Hall on Monday, September 18, before the board’s next meeting.
A post on Elite’s Facebook page says:
Join Elite Productions as we take a stand against hate, discrimination and fight to be able to perform at Envy Bar & Restaurant. Come speak out and let your voice be heard in front of city council. Show your love and support for Elite and Envy as it’s time for a change and it’s time to be heard.
Shortly after that, we received hate mail on Facebook. People are trying to get us out of Portland.
Guillermo said that the ordinance is trying to label them as:
Adult cabaret. That’s not what we do. We are drag queens, we are not taking our clothes off. We are not cabaret.
After the success of their August 12 show, they also held one September 9.
Each show has been a major success. They both sold out.
At its September 5 meeting, the City Board of Alderman voted unanimously to amend the combined zoning ordinance in regards to “adult oriented business” with no discussion. They did reference a larger discussion at a previous work session.
Portland Mayor Kenneth Wilber could not be immediately reached for comment.
Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide organization that works for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said:
This ordinance raises First Amendment questions because of the way it limits artistic expression, equal protection questions because of the way it regulates gender, and it creates a bad climate for business through over-regulation. I think the Board of Aldermen has an opportunity to press the pause button before they invite legal trouble and national scorn.