Starkville Pride Officially Sues Board Of Aldermen

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Below is the press release issued from Kaplan & Company, LLC regarding the pride parade denial by the Starkville Board of Aldermen.


By Denying Permit Application, Starkville Board of Aldermen Violated First Amendment and Equal Rights Protections of MSU Students

MISSISSIPPI – Starkville Pride, a Mississippi community organization committed to LGBT equality and dignity, today filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Starkville for denying a parade permit application to hold a parade. The city’s Board of Aldermen voted last week to deny the permit despite widespread town support and no apparent logistics, security or cost concerns. The Board’s decision to ban speech by Starkville Pride on city streets is 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.

Led by Mississippi State University students Bailey McDaniel and Emily Turner, Starkville Pride applied for a special event request to host the 2018 Pride Parade. The event would be open to the public and organizers expected 200 participants and 200 spectators. The application also included a list of community sponsors and beneficiaries.

“We wanted to have a day of celebration and inclusiveness,” said Bailey McDaniel, President of Starkville Pride. “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 Pride is being represented by Roberta A. Kaplan, the renowned civil rights attorney and founding partner of Kaplan & Company, LLP, who successfully represented Edie Windsor before the United States Supreme Court. “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,” said Kaplan. “We are confident that the federal court will reverse this unconstitutional action and allow the parade to proceed as planned.”

Starkville’s permit process is straightforward: in virtually every instance for which detailed records are publicly available (a total of 88 applications from 2010 to 2018), the board addressed the application without public comment or deliberation. Between 2014-2018, every single permit application prior to this one has been approved.

Starkville Pride’s application, though, was treated differently. After one Aldermen objected to considering the application as part of the board’s consent agenda, another requested and received a secret, closed-door “executive session” from which the public was barred. Contrary to past practice, public comments were then solicited: fourteen people spoke in support of the application, noting the parade would be “a wonderful celebration of community, inclusion and diversity. Two people spoke against the application, arguing that “God made Adam and Eve.” No one raised any objections related to logistics, security, financial or other concerns. The permit was denied by a 4-3 vote.

“Pride festivals are about celebrating the LGBTQ community and about being out and visible in your hometown and that’s exactly what Starkville Pride has a right to do,” said says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “The reality is that LGBTQ people live in every town across Mississippi and we will keep fighting until they are fully equal and free from discriminatory treatment like this.”

Mississippi is home to 60,000 LGBT adults and an estimated 11,400 transgender youth and adults, according to 2016 data published by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. The state is also home to 3,500 same-sex couples, 29 percent of whom are raising children—the highest rate in the nation.

The case, Starkville Pride et. al. v. City of Starkville, was filed Monday afternoon in United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division.

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