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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 2, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 09
Students sue Mississippi town that banned Pride Parade
Section One
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Students sue Mississippi town that banned Pride Parade

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two Mississippi students are suing the town of Starkville, home of Mississippi State University, because it denied them a permit to hold a Pride Parade.

Bailey McDaniel and Emily Turner - leaders of Starkville Pride - filed suit February 27 in a federal district court. They are seeking an injunction vacating the decision of its city council to deny the group a permit for a Pride Parade planned for March.

The 12-page complaint contends that the four aldermen who voted against the parade did so purely for content-based reasons, and in doing so, violated the members of Starkville Pride's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

'[The city's] denial of [Starkville Pride's] application violated and continues to violate [Starkville Pride's] rights to freedom of speech, assemble, and petition guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment,' the complaint says.

'[The city's] denial of [Starkville Pride's] application was based on their viewpoint and the content of the speech at issue. The denial was not necessary to achieve any compelling government interest.'

The complaint also notes that Starkville Pride, which has about 77 members, raised roughly $7,000 to hold the parade, and would have been able to pay the city the estimated $3,220 for street closures to accommodate the parade.

According to The Dispatch, a newspaper that serves Starkville and Columbus, Mississippi, a GoFundMe account in Starkville Pride's name indicates the group has raised more than $11,000 as of February 27.

City staff has said the parade permit, which came to the board as a special event request, was properly applied for. Starkville Pride's complaint notes that public records are available for 88 special event applications from 2012 to February 2018. It says that of those, 80 were approved as part of the board's consent agenda or were otherwise decided through a vote with no public comment or deliberation.

The complaint also notes that only two of the 88 applications before Starkville Pride's request involved a substantial public comment or deliberation. Those were 2011 and 2012, and the comments and deliberation were 'exclusively logistical in nature.'

'Publicly available records indicate that, since 2010, every special events application considered by the Board (other than Starkville Pride's) has been granted,' the complaint says.

McDaniel said Starkville Pride only wanted to have its parade for a day of 'celebration and inclusiveness.'

'Without explanation or warning, a whole community of people has been denied their constitutional rights,' she said. '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.'

McDaniel added that Starkville Pride is still planning to host a Pride event on March 24.

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