Metro Weekly

Mississippi city reverses course, granting permit for Pride Parade

Organizers sued city after original rejection, alleging it violated organizers' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights

Photo: Chillin662, via Wikimedia.

Officials in Starkville, Miss., have reversed course, voting to approve a permit for the first-ever Pride Parade in the city’s history.

The Board of Aldermen voted 3-3 at its Tuesday meeting to approve the Pride Parade, with Ald. David Little abstaining. Mayor Lynn Spruill cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the parade, which will be scheduled for Saturday, March 24.

The board’s actions come after a organizers filed a lawsuit against the city for rejecting a permit for the parade last month. Starkville Pride, which enlisted the help of the famous LGBTQ rights lawyer Roberta Kaplan in suing the city, argued that the board’s decision was “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.”

“Proud to be in Starkville,” Starkville Pride Director and Founder Bailey McDaniel told the Clarion Ledger. “I’m just glad to be a 22-year-old again. I think this is a really good learning experience and this sets a precedent for activists in younger generations. I’ve been fighting for four years and the culmination of that was in that vote.”

“Bailey McDaniel, Emily Turner and Starkville Pride stood up to vindicate the right to freedom of speech held by every American, no matter whether they are straight or gay,” Kaplan said in a statement. “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.”

The Human Rights Campaign also released a statement commending the activists who pushed for the parade.

After the Starkville Board of Aldermen shamefully denied a permit for a Pride parade, the community rallied around Starkville Pride and pushed the city to do the right thing and allow the LGBTQ community to peaceably assemble and celebrate Pride in their own community,” Rob Hill, HRC’s Mississippi state director, said. “HRC has been proud to work alongside Starkville Pride and community leaders to make this parade a reality, and we look forward to a successful Pride celebration in a few short weeks.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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