Weeks after the Starkville, Miss., city council initially denied LGBT organizers a parade permit, over 2,500 people marched this Saturday for the city's Pride event. The Pride celebration took place without incident, according to the Associated Press, and was the city's biggest parade in its history, reports the Starkville Daily News.
Starkville's city council originally denied the parade a permit in February, even though more than a dozen people spoke in support of Pride, in contrast to two residents who opposed the event. The outcome led to a federal lawsuit against the city, which prompted another vote on the issue. The council was in a 3-3 tie, which was broken by Mayor Lynn Spruill, who green-lit the parade.
"What happened at tonight's meeting was a victory not only for our clients and for their equal dignity under the law, but also for the core principle that in this country we do not restrict a person's ability to speak based on whether or not we agree with what they have to say," Roberta Kaplan, the legendary LGBT rights lawyer who defended the Starkville Pride organizers, told the AP.
Rainbow balloons, roller-skaters, and dogs were are all a part of Saturday's celebration, where several held signs that proclaimed "Unleash Pride." Video from the event showed a protester picketed the event with a sign that called homosexuality an abomination.
Starkville, home to Mississippi State University, has become more cosmopolitan due to its young, liberal population. However, the city council has been at odds with its residents' progressive values; in 2015 the board repealed a measure that made Starkville the first city in the state to denounce LGBT discrimination. That same day it took down a city health insurance policy that offered coverage for same-sex partners, a year before marriage equality was legalized.
Opponents to the parade claim they aren't bigoted; resident Tim Cummings said being a veterinarian taught him that same-sex relationships are unnatural, allegedly due to antaomy. However, it has been scientifically proven that plenty of animals engage in homosexual mating and have been observed doing so for decades.
"The decision not to allow a Pride parade in Starkville doesn't make me any less gay, and it doesn't quiet my voice, and it isn't going to make me want to move," Starkville resident Megan O'Nan told the AP. "But it tells a very special part of this community that we don't matter."