Despite major setbacks, pride celebrations are now back on track in the Mississippi city of Starkville, after city officials reversed their initial controversial decision to ban on the event.
Initially voting 4-3 to deny the cities Pride organisation a permit in holding the event, the Board of Aldermen (Starkville’s city council) finally agreed to grant a permit, however, its members refused to say why they had denied the permit, to begin with.
The city, which is known for its Mississippi State University campus, has a population of around 24,000 people, was taken to court last month by the two university students who founded Starkville Pride in their bid to force the council to grant them permission to hold the town’s first LGBTQ Pride parade.
According to the suit, “the city banned plaintiffs from speaking in a public forum solely because it disagreed with the viewpoint and content of their speech.”
The pair added that “hostility to their message was inextricably intertwined with hostility to their LGBT identity and pro-LGBT advocacy.”
The story soon made international headlines with individuals and human rights groups expressing outrage over such a blatant violation of constitutional civil rights.
Following mounting pressure, the Board of Aldermen finally voted on the permit request for a second time, in a packed City Hall meeting.
With one of the aldermen abstaining, leading to a 3-3 tie, the cities Mayor, Lynn Spruill, who supports the Pride parade, was able to cast the deciding vote in favour of the event, leaving many both for and against the event received by the approval been granted, with a disapproval likely to leave the city embroiled in a protracted and costly legal battle.
David Little, the Alderman who abstained in the vote, told Mississippi Today that he had done so in order to allow the city to move forward in dealing with other pressing issues, but made it clear that he remained in “principal” opposed to the event.
“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,” said Starkville Pride attorney, Roberta A. Kaplan, in a statement.
The Starkville Pride Parade will take place on the 24th of March 2018 and will be preceded by a Pride Welcome Party and a Queer Art Market and followed by comedy and drag shows.