WINFIELD – As we reported just three weeks ago, Putnam County Commissioner Steve Deweese had posted on his Facebook page addressing the upcoming “Pride” event at Valley Park. In his post, he said:
“We, as County Leaders, need to deter any future activity within our parks that DO NOT violate the 1st Amendment (or Criminal activity) with any future performances.” STEVE DEWEESE, PUTNAM COUNTY COMMISSION
Last night Deweese made good on his commitment to deter by introducing an ordinance similar to one passed by the Jefferson County Commission earlier this month.
The ordinance bars anyone under the age of 18 from attending a performance that is deemed obscene or depicts sexual or lewd conduct. The ordinance initially affects the unincorporated areas of Putnam County, the incorporated areas will have to adopt the measure at their own level. The penalty for violating this law can result in a $500 fine or 30 days in jail for the first offense.
The Putnam Courthouse was crowded with members of the public who came to speak both for and against the measure. The first speaker was a representative of the ACLU who echoed similar comments that were made in Jefferson County calling the ordinance redundant and pandering, while also noting that “drag” is a celebrated art form.
Several representatives from local churches spoke and focused their comments on how performances like drag shows are grooming tools, should be confined to adult establishments, and that normalization of this behavior was damaging to the county’s youth.
After the event, local media pundits also shared their comments. Dave Allen radio host with WCHS Radio in Charleston who is a resident of Putnam County and a member of the Putnam County Republican Executive Committee discussed his concerns with the ordinance on his show Wednesday by questioning, “Who defines what lewd behavior is?” He went on to say:
“If you’re worried about kids somehow being molested by drag queens, you may want to keep them away from grandpa, Uncle Bill or out of church or sports teams.”
We asked the other morning talk radio host covering Putnam County for comment. NewsRadio 800WVHU conservative radio host Tom Roten said:
The sexual grooming of children is immoral, ungodly, and should be illegal everywhere. I’ll never understand how anyone can be in favor of exposing kids to that type of behavior.” Tom Roten, Newstalk 800 WVHU
As reflected in the comments by both talk radio hosts, the LGBTQ issue in West Virginia is split almost equally. According to Pew Research, 47% of West Virginians believe LGBTQ behaviors should be discouraged, while 45% think they should be accepted, while the remainder is undecided.
This year more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills appeared before state legislatures including West Virginia. Legislation is aimed to limit or abolish gender-affirming treatment for minors and target drag performers. The Republican majority West Virginia legislature had several bills introduced in this past session but few made it out of committee. Now counties and municipalities are introducing their own measures to address the issues.