Mississippi Town Reverses Decision To Ban Pride Parade

"We do not restrict a person’s ability to speak based on whether or not we agree with what they have to say."

After local students threatened to sue, a town board in Mississippi reversed its decision to deny a permit for a Pride parade.

Last month, representatives from Starkville Pride asked the city's Board of Aldermen for a special permit to hold the the town of 25,000’s first Pride parade and festival. The event presented no security or logistical difficulties, and was supported by a majority of citizens who spoke at the meeting. (One local, Dorothy Isaac, did warn the event would turn Starkville "into a sin city.")

The initial 4-3 vote against the permit stunned many, including Mayor Lynn Spruill, who said the parade would "show an inclusiveness in our community.” The board hasn’t rejected an application since 2014, but gave no reason for turning this one down.

Rick Dole/Getty Images

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 24: The Mississippi State Bulldog Marching Band, during the Mississippi State and University of Florida game, at Davis Wade Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Starkville, Mississippi (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)

“We wanted to have a day of celebration and inclusiveness,” said Mississippi State University student Bailey McDaniel, a Starkville Pride co-founder. “Without explanation or warning, a whole community of people have been denied their constitutional rights.”

Now, after national headlines and the threat of a lawsuit, Alderman Richard Little has changed his "No" vote to an abstention, leading to a tie which Mayor Suruill broke in favor of the permit.

"I believe the city of Starkville’s interests are better served in moving forward beyond this," said Little.

Roberta Kaplan, who represented the students, said the reversal reinforced the American principle that "we do not restrict a person’s ability to speak based on whether or not we agree with what they have to say."

The Starkville Pride parade will go on as planned on March 24. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help sponsor events throughout the year.

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