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Pride Organizers Sue Mississippi Town That Denied Parade Permit

Starkville map

The denial is textbook anti-LGBT discrimination, say Starkville Pride organizers, represented by prominent attorney Roberta Kaplan.

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Pride organizers in Starkville, Miss., today filed a federal lawsuit over the city's denial of a permit for a the group's parade.

The city's Board of Aldermen voted last week to deny the permit, even though many townspeople supported holding a Pride parade and there were apparently no problems with cost, logistics, or security surrounding the event.

"The Board's decision to ban speech by Starkville Pride on city streets is a textbook violation of the First Amendment, and its discriminatory treatment, based solely on LGBT-related animus, violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause," Pride organizers said in a press release announcing the lawsuit, Starkville Pride et. al. v. City of Starkville, filed Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division.

"We wanted to have a day of celebration and inclusiveness," said Bailey McDaniel, president of Starkville Pride, in the release. "Without explanation or warning, a whole community of people have been denied their constitutional rights. We would like to believe that this type of hateful, intolerant behavior does not represent the Starkville community and we hope that the decision will be reversed." McDaniel attends Mississippi State University, located in Starkville, as do several other Pride organizers.

Starkville Pride is represented by Roberta Kaplan, who successfully represented Edie Windsor before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case that struck down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. "Based solely on the content of their speech, specifically the fact that they take pride in being gay, these students are being denied their right to speak in a public forum," said Kaplan, founding partner of Kaplan & Co., in the release. "We are confident that the federal court will reverse this unconstitutional action and allow the parade to proceed as planned."

It is rare for Starkville officials to deny a special event permit. In virtually every instance for which detailed records are publicly available (a total of 88 applications from 2010 to 2018), the board addressed the application without public comment or deliberation. Between 2014 and 2018, every permit application before this one was approved.

When the Board of Aldermen considered Starkville Pride's permit application last week, 16 people spoke in favor of it and two against. But the aldermen voted 4-3 to reject the application. None of those who voted no gave a reason, and three of them left the meeting room through a rear entrance, according to local news reports.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.