Martinsville city leaders to remove ordinance against cross dressing

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) An event to promote LGBT awareness in Martinsville hit a snag recently when a little known, and rarely enforced, city law got in the way.

"Young people especially in Martinsville don't really have a community of adults who are like them to look towards and so when they do experience bigotry and when they do experience harassment and bullying they feel like there is not a place for them," Brunch Organizer Kim Buck said.

Kim Buck says after the Orlando shootings last month she, along with a Martinsville business owner Laurence Vanderwoods wanted to promote awareness, acceptance and find a way to move forward past the tragedy.

"And hopefully prevent other things stemming from homophobia and prejudice from happening here," Buck said.

So they decided to put together a drag brunch.

Only to find out there is a Martinsville City Ordinance from 1971 which states it's against the law to cross dress.

Martinsville Planning Commission Vice Chairman Joe Martin brought the issue to the attention of city council because he wanted to prevent any lawsuits.

"All we had to do was really go talk about it. I went and spoke with the city attorney told me that the law was unconstitutional," Martin said.

"The story I've always been told is that back in the 70's we had a local cross dresser that always used to compliment the then mayors wife on her outfits and she didn't like that. So, we added disguises to conceal your true gender. I think there is a first amendment problem with that," Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday said.

Monday says he is not aware of anyone who has been prosecuted for the law and it will now be taken out.

However, part of the ordinance regarding masks and hoods will stay.

"And that's a anti KKK ordinance, that dates from the civil rights era and it's tied in with state law," Monday said.

City leaders say the cross dressing part will be removed at the next city council meeting.

And the drag brunch will go on, which Buck says is a step in the right direction.

"More positivity and unity just bringing people together for a fun event and get them talking to each other," Buck said.

Until the ordinance is removed from law, Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn says it will not be enforced.