Legal Challenge: Starkville Pride Plans To Seek Suit Against City

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – When the Starkville Board of Aldermen voted against allowing Starkville Pride to hold a parade, they set into motion a legal challenge.

As we first told you Wednesday night, February 21, the group plans to file suit.

To the group, it’s all about their Constitutional rights.

Attorneys tell WCBI, the board’s vote violates the U.S. Constitution.

Roberta Kaplan, a nationally known Civil Rights attorney, is representing Starkville Pride.

Kaplan says the lawsuit seeks to accomplish one thing.

“No one is seeking to get rich or even get any money off of this.” Kaplan explains, “This is just simply to have the ability to walk down the street as part of a Pride Parade, the way that gay folk do in so many other cities across this country.”

Not being able to do so violates the group’s fundamental rights and freedoms, according to Mississippi State University Constitutional Law Professor, Whit Waide.

Two of those rights fall under the First Amendment, the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom to Peacefully Assemble, but Waide says there’s more.

“The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, so what that means, is that a government can’t act in such a way to carve people out for different treatment, unless they’ve got an over-riding reason to do so, or a compelling reason to do so,” says Waide.

He also states the board of aldermen doesn’t have either of those.

Kaplan says she’s representing Starkville Pride at no cost.

“Just to be clear, that’s not to say I’m not going to try to get my attorney fees back from the city when they’re found liable,” says Kaplan.

Kaplan plans on coming to Starkville, but says she wouldn’t need to if the problem could be solved.

“If the city is a town that’s going to change its mind and to allow the parade to go forward in a manner that’s acceptable to my clients, then you know, my job is not to litigate simply for the purpose of litigating.” Kaplan continues, “My job is to represent my clients’ interests.”

The suit has not yet been filed, but when it is, it will fall under Federal jurisdiction because it is a Constitutional case.

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