Inclusivity, fun are Covington’s core identity
and have direct economic pay-off, City officials say
People came from all over for the NKy Pride celebration in 2021, which included a parade, festival, and a drag show on the Sixth Street Promenade in MainStrasse Village.
COVINGTON, Ky. – City of Covington officials are strongly condemning legislation being considered by the Kentucky General Assembly that apparently would shut down the City’s annual Pride Parade, Pridefest, and drag shows and related events at such prominent Covington businesses as Hotel Covington, Braxton Brewing Co., The Standard restaurant, Covington Yard, and many other places.
Senate Bill 115 would create a new section of KRS Chapter 231 to address so-called adult entertainment, including drag performances – defined as singing, lip syncing, dancing, or reading while wearing clothing, makeup, or “exhibiting a gender expression” that is inconsistent with the biological sex of a person – within 1,000 feet of any residence, park, school, and other locations.
Because the bill associates drag performances with “a wide variety of adverse secondary effects,” including crime, human trafficking, vulgarity, weakening of public morality, illicit drug use, negative impacts on the value of surrounding properties, urban blight, and litter.
It would apply statewide.
“I can’t begin to describe how wrong-headed and ill-advised this legislation is, and how much of an overreach it is,” Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said. “The courts have consistently restricted government’s authority to regulate expression such as this.”
The legislation, were it to pass, would have impact throughout the state, including, for example, in Louisville and in Covington, where the City is a host and sponsor every year of NKy Pride, the region’s celebration of support for the LGBTQ community. It includes a parade through the urban core that features drag performers, a festival at the City’s Goebel Park, and associated drag shows.
And the City’s communications team – via social media and a weekly “Weekend in Love the Cov” release – regularly advertises drag shows (among other events) at places like Hotel Covington, Braxton Brewing Co., Green House Bar in MainStrasse Village, and a wide array of bars and restaurants.
A drag show last weekend at Braxton Brewing’s taproom for Valentine’s Day, for example, attracted hundreds of people for a 7-9 pm event. And “Drag Bingo” is being held tonight at Covington Yard.
“Anybody who associates the Pride Parade and drag shows with crime, urban blight, and depressed property values has obviously never attended either the parade or a show in Covington,” said Dan Hassert, the City’s Communications director. “These are fun and entertaining and epitomize the quirky personality of The Cov, which by the way has paid off very handsomely in our ability to attract businesses, investors, talent, and visitors.”
City officials say its embrace of events like NKy Pride and drag shows is one element of the Unapologetically Covington branding message recently adopted by its Economic Development Department. So are its ongoing efforts establishing it as a welcoming and diverse community, outlined on the City’s Inclusive webpage, which lists a variety of events, policies, resolutions, and programs.
National economic development experts say those are the things that position Covington for success in attracting jobs and businesses.
A citywide economic development strategy written in 2019 with the help of a national site selection consultant salutes Covington’s history as “a pathfinder and leader of human rights policies.” It concluded that the City’s reputation for being “welcoming” was a positive factor in its marketing.
“In other words,” said Tom West, Covington’s Economic Development Director, “embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. This is a fun community that is open to everybody. I don’t understand why we’re trying to vilify performers and denigrate the upstanding businesses which host these events.”
The Kentucky Legislative Message Line can be reached at (800) 372-7181. The bill is Senate Bill 115.
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