Last week the Board of Aldermen for the city of Starkville, Mississippi (population 23,888), denied an LGBTQ group’s request of permits for a Pride parade. The 4-3 vote against the permit led the group to file a federal lawsuit against the city for denying the constitutionally protected right to free speech. In light of that potentially costly lawsuit, the Aldermen voted again and approved the permit request in a tied 3-3 vote with the mayor breaking the tie in favor of the Starkville Pride parade (which is set to occur on Saturday, March 24).
The LGBTQ group, Starkville Pride, was legally represented by renowned civil rights attorney Roberta A. Kaplan, the lawyer best known for representing lesbian widower Edie Windsor in the 2013 Supreme Court case that helped take down the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act.”
In a statement to the Starkville Daily News, Kaplan said, “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.”
Here’s a news video of citizens speaking after the victorious vote:
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said the board’s original vote against the permit wasn’t based on it being for an LGBTQ group per se, but rather three concerns of the $3,200 administrative cost to the city for hosting the parade, the risk of potential “explicit” content in the parade and the fear that the city would be seen as a “sponsor” of the event.
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker conceded that the $3,200 cost was nothing compared to the money the city would spend fighting a lawsuit it would surely lose.
Walker said of the parade, “I think it has the opportunity to be something that could be good for our community, and if it’s not what you want, then don’t take part. That’s part of the choice.”
What do you think of this re-vote on the Starkville Pride parade? Sound off in the comments.
Featured image by Logan Kirkland via Starkville Daily News