Rainbow t-shirt design spurs spirited conversation at City Commission meeting

Published 11:35 am Thursday, June 8, 2023

Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting featured several topics of conversation, including the city budget.

However, a t-shirt intended to be worn at this weekend’s Beer Cheese Festival garnered the most attention.

Several community members spoke regarding the article of clothing, with some for and others against it.

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Nancy Turner, the Executive Director of the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission, described the t-shirt design in a discussion with the Sun following the meeting.

“It was intended to be a retro t-shirt from the 7os era with the 70s font,” she said.

The t-shirt, which says “Winchester is for everyone,” is accompanied by a multi-colored rainbow featuring red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The same colors are associated with the rainbow flag, often called the gay Pride flag.

Lee Cruse, Pastor of Grace Bible Church, spoke against the design

While stating that he believed people in the United States had a right to live a lifestyle they chose based on the U.S. Constitution, he also brought up concerns.

“[God] wants us to take the word of God and let it affect the culture. He does not want us to make decisions based on what the culture wants, and look at the word of God and turn it around”, he says. “My concern is, what we have done basically…[is] alienated a whole big group of people.”

In response, Winchester resident Brett Cheuvront disagreed.

“No one is saying that that t-shirt is saying gays are welcome here. They’re saying everyone’s welcome here”, he said. “Being of the LGBTQ community and very proud of it, I’m just tired that the [religious] people are always jumping to the gun…[if] you don’t want to wear the t-shirt, don’t wear it.”

Resident Kerry Williams brought up a separate concept.

“I’d like for the esteemed body just to go to the fundamental issue here, and we are dealing with freedom of speech,” Williams said. “The very definition of a violation of freedom of speech is a government body haltering freedom of speech from a citizen…I am fearful that any decision made on this would subject this city to frivolous lawsuits.”

City Commissioner Shannon Cox later commented.

“Anybody that didn’t think that that shirt was [going to] cause controversy is sadly mistaken,” Cox said. “We don’t need to let everything we do in Winchester, or in Kentucky, or in the world be determined by the 5% on the very right or the very left. We need to appreciate the 90% in the middle.”

Not all agreed that the t-shirt would provoke a controversial response, including City Commissioner Kitty Strode.

“I didn’t think anything about it,” Strode said. “I thought they were great-looking shirts.”

Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed provided a final comment.

“We’re not here to promote a lifestyle as a Commission. We’re not here to promote an opinion as a Commission. We’re here to focus on Winchester and making this a place where people want to live, and work, and raise their families,” Reed said.

To avoid controversy in the future, Reed has a personal request.

“Anybody that receives funding from the city, I’m going to personally ask that we don’t take one side or the other side – whatever those sides might be, whatever the issue might be – from this day forward,” she said. “The number one thing is we’re in this together, and we need to stay together, and take care of each other, and promote this community from here forward.”

The City Commission took no action regarding the t-shirts during the meeting.

The t-shirts, which cost $20 each, have sold out.