WINFIELD, W.Va. — The Putnam County Commission unanimously passed an ordinance during their meeting Tuesday that would ban children from attending “adult live performances.”
According to the ordinance, anyone under the age of 18 would be prevented from attending a performance defined as “obscene and depicting sexual or lewd conduct,” in zoned, unincorporated communities. The ordinance does not apply to events in cities or towns in Putnam County.
A similar ordinance was passed in Jefferson County at the beginning of June.
Tuesday evening’s meeting brought people who both supported and opposed the ordinance. Dozens of Putnam County residents came to speak before a vote was made by the commission.
Critics of the ordinance claim that the ordinance was proposed following a LGBTQ+ a pride festival in Hurricane that happened over the weekend.
The topic was first brought up in Putnam County at a meeting earlier in June when a member of the community complained to the commission about the event, saying it was “inappropriate” to have it in a public place.
Eli Baumwell spoke. He’s the Advocacy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. He said the ordinance is redundant.
“West Virginian code already authorizes counties to regulate adult entertainment and obscenity, and Putnam County does so to the fullest extent of the law,” Baumwell said.
Baumwell believes that the ordinance is more of an attack on drag shows and that the Putnam County Commission is following laws in Tennessee and Florida that are specified to “drag bans.”
“Drag is a form of art, with a long history,” said Baumwell. “Drag is not obscene.”
Speaking in favor of the ordinance was Chad Estep, a pastor at Teays Valley Baptist Church. Estep said the drag show culture has changed over the years and isn’t suitable to children. He mentioned the Putnam Pride event that occurred last weekend.
“Drag is sexually provocative,” Estep said. “It is outrageously unsuitable for children.”
Estep, a lifelong resident in Putnam County, said he has four children and doesn’t believe drag shows can be kid-friendly.
“How in the world is it appropriate to invite people like this to perform right beside a playground where innocent children are present?” Estep asked the crowd of residents and commission members.
Those who violate the new ordinance would face a $500 penalty or up to 30 days in a county or regional jail. A second offense would result in a $1,000 fine.
The ACLU of West Virginia put out a statement following the Putnam County Commission’s vote in favor of the ordinance saying the commission is siding with censorship.