There will be no Starkville, Mississippi Pride parade this year. The small town’s Board of Aldermen denied the request to issue permits for an LGBTQ pride parade last night. But the fight isn’t over. The aldermen may have opened themselves up to lawsuits.
Starkville Pride applied for a special event request to host a parade. Though the Mississippi Pride parade was previously on the consent agenda, it was removed by Alderman Roy A. Perkins. A consent agenda is a list of proposals and actions, usually routine business and items without objections, that can be approved at once, rather than having to go through each item individually.
By pulling the Mississippi Pride parade proposal from the consent agenda, it forced an individual vote on the issue. And, on Tuesday, despite 16 people speaking in favor of the Pride parade and only two speaking against it, the Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 to deny the request.
Since 2014, no properly filed requests have been denied. Alderman Jason Walker even confirmed the Mississippi Pride parade application was correctly filed. Fellow Alderman Patrick Miller noticed that an Associated Press reporter was sitting in on the meeting. Miller warned voting against the proposal could be a public relations disaster. He said the AP had 12.3 million followers, and “That’s 12.3 million people who immediately formulate a negative opinion about the city of Starkville.”
Miller’s warnings went unheeded, and the board rejected the proposal. Unfortunately for Starkville, the next step is legal action. Starkville Pride said it will be contacting the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center, citing House Bill 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act.”
Update: On Feb. 26, Starkville Pride filed suit against the city of Starkville. Starkville Pride is represented by Roberta A. Kaplan. Kaplan is a renowned civil rights attorney, famous for representing Edie Windsor before the Supreme Court. Kaplan said, “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. We are confident that the federal court will reverse this unconstitutional action and allow the parade to proceed as planned.”
The case, Starkville Pride et. al. v. City of Starkville, was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division.