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Branson, Missouri, advances ordinance that restricts drag shows in the tourist town

 The Branson Board of Alderman meeting on July 25, 2023
Jason Spencer | Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

The new ordinance, which passed its first reading 3-2 on Tuesday night, would require a permit to host a drag show and would not allow shows within 600 feet of any religious institution, park or school. It would also bar anyone under 18 from attending a drag show.

On the first reading, the Branson Board of Aldermen has voted 3 to 2 on a bill to restrict where drag shows can be held in the city.

The vote took place during a more than five-hour long meeting Tuesday night.

More than 30 people spoke both for and against the measure during a public hearing.

One of those speaking for the restrictions was Veronica Moore.

"For the sake of the little ones and future generations, I think Christians and moral people cannot stand by idly and allow your schools, your libraries, your hospitals and legislators and churches to be taken over by really what is a transgender craze," said Moore.

Nate Horsman reminded board members that six of them ran and won on a platform of supporting and fighting for individual freedom, rights and liberties then took an oath to protect them.

"Now certain members of this same board and a slew of the so-called good Christian people in the most patriotic city in America have fallen victim to the latest manufactured outrage and want to weaponize this board to their benefit and deny or restrict a group of fellow townspeople of their individual freedoms, rights and liberties," said Horseman.

Reverend Bruce Peterson reminded the board there are bigger problems in Branson than drag shows, including racism, crime and poverty.

"We have many serious problems in our community many of which we hide in the name of image and profit," said Peterson. "Compared to these serious problems, drag shows are a small problem. They don't threaten our way of life. It's time to get over discomfort about drag shows."

But many spoke in favor of the restrictions, including Richie Zaitz. He cited the Bible and reminded board members they were there because of citizens like him.

"We're the people that vote. Remember that," he told them. "You're servants for the people, not our rulers, and we do not want this in this city."

Jeffrey Henry who has lived in the Branson area all of his life said he’s seeing more hatred in the city now. He said, after a period of improvement, the city is backsliding.

The ordinance limits drag shows to the downtown zoning district. It requires a permit to host a drag show and would not allow shows within 600 feet of any religious institution, park, school or another drag show venue. It also bars anyone under 18 from attending a drag show.

The final vote on the measure is expected to take place on August 8.

Corrected: July 26, 2023 at 3:47 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrect reported the status of the ordinance. It has passed a first reading only, and is expected to go to a final vote on August 8.
Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.
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