One Archaic law didn’t stop Martinsville’s first drag show
With all the progress the LGBTQ community has made in recent times, you’d think that ordinances banning men from wearing women’s clothes would be considered so archaic as to be laughably balled up and dunked into a trashcan. But in Martinsville, VA, such an ordinance still exists, though it’s thankfully considered unconstitutional and isn’t enforced, and may very well be dismantled soon.
According to a few stories in the Martinsville Bulletin, The 1974 ordinance was humorously passed when a Martinsville crossdresser praised a former mayor’s wife on her choice of clothing, a compliment that offended her, City Attorney Eric Monday told the Martinsville Bulletin.
The ordinance came up more recently during a Martinsville City Council meeting when a resident running for city council, Joey Martin, announced that controversy had arisen over a drag show.
A local business owner, interested in hosting such an event, feared legal repercussions over the 1974 ordinance. But City Attorney Eric Monday contended that the ordinance is largely a relic of the past, and is neither enforced nor legal. Better yet, it could even be repealed.
“It is my conclusion, and has been for some time, that [the ordinance is] unconstitutional and unenforceable, nor am I aware of anyone ever being prosecuted under it,” Monday told the Martinsville Bulletin. “If it’s council’s wish, we can certainly draft something to repeal it.”
The organizers for the drag show, Laurence Vanderwoods and Kim Buck who own Martinsville’s Serendipity Metro Deli and Coffee House, held the show to raise awareness and help people feel comfortable with themselves, and were initially inspired by the Orlando nightclub tragedy. Their original Facebook event was met with opposition, being flagged and removed four times. They only found relief when they made the event private, something that could potentially have hurt their attendance numbers.
The opposition even moved a friend to warn Vanderwoods about the ordinance.
“When they warned me, it scared me,” Vanderwoods said. “I would have never imagined a law like that still being on the books anywhere in the United States. It dumbfounded me.”
The organizers feel that having to make the event private just goes to show how much these events are still needed to raise awareness in their communities.
“… That people would be so offended by someone having a fun, inclusive event that they would try to destroy it,” Buck said. “We [wanted] everybody to come and have a good time and not be intimidated. This is just about fun. Hopefully it will lead to more dialogue and we can have some more events in the future.”
But the event went off without a hitch this past weekend. According to the Serendipity Metro Deli & Coffee House’s Facebook page, with both shows selling out and another event planned for August.
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