Organizers planning an LGBT+ pride parade in Starkville, “Mississippi’s College Town,” may not have expected much opposition. Pride parades are a staple of big cities and large municipalities even in the Deep South, and the presence of the University of Mississippi means Starkville is often more open to change than its neighbors.
But a bare majority of the town’s aldermen voted to deny the fledgling pride parade a permit, setting up a battle over equality, speech, and the right to assemble.
Organizers have hired Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the landmark case that defanged the Defense of Marriage Act. “We absolutely intend to sue,” Kaplan told ABC News. “We think that grounds are extremely strong. We intend to do so extremely promptly.”
Starkville’s politics have turned ugly when it comes to LGBT+ equality in the recent past. In 2014, it became the first town in Mississippi to pass a resolution against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Just months later, a veto-proof majority of alderman repealed the resolution.
Mayor Lynn Spruill told ABC News she thinks the parade permit rejection doesn’t reflect the values of her town: “I think it creates a view of the city of Starkville of being non-inclusive and I happen to think we are an inclusive community.”