Mississippi town approves pride parade after fierce backlash


The town of Starkville, Mississippi, will host its first gay pride parade this month after its officials reversed a decision to reject a permit.

The Starkville Board of Alderman on Tuesday voted again whether to approve the event, and tied 3-3. The mayor, Lynn Spruill, then cast the deciding vote in favor of the parade, now scheduled for March 24.

The board came under fire in February after it denied the event’s organizers a permit  to hold the town’s first gay pride rally, even after a majority of people spoke out in its favor at the original hearing, and there were no concerns with cost. But the aldermen voted 4-3 to reject it, provoking widespread outrage that put the town of 25,000 in the national spotlight.

The sponsors of the event, a group called Starkville Pride, filed a federal lawsuit after the initial decision, saying officials had discriminated against LGBTQ residents and violated free speech rights.

Tuesday’s vote came after Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk asked the board to reconsider the permit, calling the hubbub “a bit of a growing pain for the city.”

“I think we’re in a position where we can make a more measured and reasoned vote tonight,” Sistrunk said, according to The Associated Press.

Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Starkville Pride, said that her law firm was “so incredibly proud” to represent the group, and that she couldn’t wait for the parade. A judge has not yet ruled on the lawsuit, and it’s unclear if it will proceed now that the parade has been approved.

“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,” Kaplan said in a statement provided to the Starkville Daily News.

The approval also was hailed by the Human Rights Campaign, which said local outrage pushed the city to “do the right thing.”

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Pride month celebrations across the United States
People participate in a Resist March that replaced the annual Pride Parade in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
People participate in a Resist March that replaced the annual Pride Parade in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
Thousands celebrate the annual LGBTQ Capital Pride parade in Washington June 10, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
Members of the LGBT community and their supporters participate in the #ResistMarch at the 47th annual LA Pride Festival in Hollywood, California on June 11, 2017. Inspired by the huge women's marches that took place around the world following the inauguration of President Trump, LA Pride has replaced its decades-old parade with a protest march. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People participate in a Resist March that replaced the annual Pride Parade in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
FOLEY SQUARE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/06/16: On June 16, 2017 at Foley Square. NYC Pride takes the Rally back into the streets. Community activists, organizers, and more will make their voices heard as 10 days of LGBT Activism, Visibility, and Celebration Kicks-Off. The NYC Pride expands this year to 17 events for the LGBT Community. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LONG BEACH, CA - MAY 21: A member of Flaggers United participates in the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade in Long Beach on Sunday, May 21, 2017. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JUNE 18: Melany Austad, middle, Macey Moyer, left, and Kaylee Flaherty, right, all of whom work for Target, wave rainbow flags as they take part in the 42nd annual PrideFest Parade on June 18, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Denver PrideFest is Colorados largest regional celebration of LGBT Pride. The parade started in Cheesman Park headed west on Colfax Ave and ended at Civic Center. The festival included live entertainment on three stages, as well as more than 200 vendors, food and drink. Denver PrideFest is the largest annual fundraiser for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, a non-profit organization that serves more than 47,000 people annually with programs for LGBT youth, seniors, Colorados transgender community, and training and legal programs. Over 180 different organizations participated in this year's parade. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JUNE 18: Confetti flies in the air during the 42nd annual PrideFest Parade on June 18, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Denver PrideFest is Colorados largest regional celebration of LGBT Pride. The parade started in Cheesman Park headed west on Colfax Ave and ended at Civic Center. The festival included live entertainment on three stages, as well as more than 200 vendors, food and drink. Denver PrideFest is the largest annual fundraiser for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, a non-profit organization that serves more than 47,000 people annually with programs for LGBT youth, seniors, Colorados transgender community, and training and legal programs. Over 180 different organizations participated in this year's parade. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
STONEWALL INN MONUMENT, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/06/14: Gays Against Guns organized a rally and march in New York Citys West Village, starting at The Stonewall Inn on June 14, 2017; in memory of Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag, the international symbol of LGBTQ pride. The event also protest discrimination and bigotry against LGBTQ Americans that has been perpetuated by the Trump administration and the GOP. Baker died last March 31 at age 65. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The group “has been proud to work alongside Starkville Pride and community leaders to make this parade a reality, and we look forward to a successful Pride celebration in a few short weeks,” Rob Hill, the group’s Mississippi director, said in a statement. 

The Daily News reported that some had voiced concerns that the parade would feature explicit content ― fears that Sistrunk was quick to dispel.

“They’re going to have a parade, it’s going to be a celebration and I don’t expect anything to fall into lewd or illegal behavior,” Sistrunk said.

The Associated Press noted that the three aldermen who voted against the parade did not explain their opposition. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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