Mississippi Town Sued For Rejecting Pride Parade Application

"A whole community of people have been denied their constitutional rights."

After a town board in Mississippi denied a permit for a Pride parade, activists are taking them to court, claiming their First Amendment rights have been violated.

Last week the board of aldermen in Starkville, Mississippi, stunned residents, who were overwhelmingly in support of hosting the town of 25,000’s first Pride parade, byvoting to reject the request.

Mississippi State University students Bailey McDaniel and Emily Turner, representing Starkville Pride, filed their paperwork correctly and the March event appeared to present no security or logistics issues.

The board hasn’t rejected an application since 2014, but gave no reason for turning this one down.

“We wanted to have a day of celebration and inclusiveness,” said McDaniel. “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.”

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill was one of several people who spoke in favor of the event at last week’s meeting, calling it “one of those things that shows an inclusiveness in our community.” Mayor Spruill later said she was “extremely disappointed” the permit was denied.

Starkville Pride is being represented by Roberta A. Kaplan, who successfully represented Edie Windsor before the Supreme Court and helped topple 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,” Kaplan said in a statement. “We are confident that the federal court will reverse this unconstitutional action and allow the parade to proceed as planned.”

The case was filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Starkville Pride continue to sponsor events throughout the year.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery