BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma — The city of Bartlesville is working on an adult entertainment ordinance following a debate over drag shows at a recent Pride event.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the city council directed the city attorney to begin drafting wording for the ordinance. A petition began circulating online and received 2,000 unverified signatures demanding that the city council take action following the Sept. 10 drag show event in Union Square Park.
Part of the petition asks to “determine whether this activity violates any state law, city ordinance, or city’s contract for the use of public areas, and if so, take appropriate action.” If no law or ordinance is violated, the petition asks the City Council to study this issues and consider a new city ordinance prohibiting adult-oriented activities in public spaces.
Michelle Mullens, who lives in Bartlesville, said she supports drag shows and performers, but feels they have a place and a time.
“As a mom, when we’re out in public where the kids are going to see it, I absolutely want something appropriate,” says Mullens. “I have nothing against drag shows. The people who wear it are talented, I just believe it has a place.”
Following the Commission’s decision, we contacted Oklahomans For Equality:
“I really don’t think the people making this complaint really thought about the breadth of what they’re asking about,” said interim executive director Dorothy Ballard. “How on earth do you define adult entertainment? Boundary Where? When will you stop allowing people to use public spaces designed for these kinds of gatherings?”
We spoke with City Attorney Jess Kane, who said he has 120 days to draft the language and will also seek outside counsel with knowledge of the First Amendment.
Their desire, Ballard said, is not to pursue the city, but to ensure that everyone in Bartlesville is represented equally and has the ability to host events and celebrate like everyone else.
It’s not about the show or the performers, it’s about where it’s held, Mullens said.
“I can understand if they had more events in community centers or something like that and advertised it as an adult event, but in public, it might not be the best idea,” she said.
The Bartlesville chapter of Oklahomans for Equality sent the following statement to 2 News Oklahoma:
“The Bartlesville chapter of Oklahomans for Equality is disappointed by the lack of leadership from Mayor and City Council members Roane, Dorsey and Curd who voted to waste precious taxpayer dollars hiring outside attorneys to draft legal choices that discriminate against citizens. We cannot overstate the city’s The extent of the harm done by the mayor and the city council by pushing these unconstitutional laws. It was clear to anyone who attended the last city council meeting that the mayor and council members who voted to discriminate had no idea what their decisions would be Do harm to the rights of the citizens of Bartlesville and the city’s finances or realize that their decisions will do harm to the rights of the citizens of Bartlesville and the city’s finances. They speak out loud and clear for the world to see that they want Two Spirit LGBTQIA+ become second class citizens in Bartlesville.
The constitutional rights of Americans in designated public forums such as Unity Square are addressed. Discrimination based on content is one of the most sacred constitutional rights we have as Americans. We will fight any attempt by the City to limit or prevent the expression and use of our First Amendment rights.
This historic attempt to violate our First Amendment rights will cost New York City dearly, not only in significant amounts of time, but tens of thousands, if not hundreds of dollars, ultimately in court.
We explicitly ask the City of New York to begin negotiations with the Bartlesville chapter of OKEQ to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution that not only prevents the waste of taxpayer dollars, but respects the constitutional rights of all Bartlesville citizens. “
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