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Porter County to review facility rental policies following drag show uproar

Uproar over an event that would've included a drag show has prompted Porter County to review its rental policies. Rogue Syndicate was planning to hold another "Halfway to Halloween Market and Drag Show" at the Porter County Expo Center — an event it's hosted since 2019.

County Attorney Scott McClure says the county planned to let the event go ahead — but anyone under 18 would have needed to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and a wristband system would have been put in place for alcohol sales.

"I had more than one group conversation with attorneys on attempting to reconcile all the different rights that we have playing together here," McClure said during Monday's county commissioners meeting. "I mean, we obviously have free speech. We have some parental rights. We have some laws that we need to follow, obviously, with our own alcohol [license]."

Commissioner Jim Biggs said he wasn't necessarily opposed to the drag show itself but the way it was advertised, with kids getting in for free and no mention of adult supervision. "I don't care that there's a drag show out there. I really, really don't. But . . . let's set the example for the rest of the country how it's done without upsetting everybody else," Biggs added.

But some remained skeptical that the event wasn't receiving extra scrutiny. They noted that a number of events serve alcohol and allow children.

Rebecca Tomerlin asked whether the wristband requirement would be extended to weddings. "Weddings can get rowdy, too. And when we're serving alcohol there, are we going to be concerned about kids under 18, or are we going to have separate policies for weddings versus nonprofits versus an expo like this?" Tomerlin asked.

Commissioner Barb Regnitz stressed that any new policies would be consistent for all organizations.

Others argued that the event didn't have any more "adult content" than most other things kids may encounter.

Kelly Garza said she's attended every year. "And the biggest crowd-pleaser song was 'Monster Mash' with a fully-dressed Bride of Frankenstein," Garza noted.

"Love that song," Commissioner Biggs interjected.

"It's a great song," Garza agreed, "and it is not adult content."

Fran Fuller felt fears about the LGBTQ+ community are unjustified. "They don't want to push their beliefs, their lifestyles on anyone, least of all children. I know firsthand what it's like to see someone you love struggle with that, beat themselves up because they have different believes than most," Fuller told the commissioners.

Last week, Rogue Syndicate announced that it was canceling the drag show portion of the event out of safety concerns, after getting threats of violence. But one of its most vocal opponents, Dawn Miller, said she's also been the victim of online attacks.

"I have been to drag queen shows before. I know what they're geared towards," Miller said.