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Lawsuit looms for Starkville over parade denial

 

Bailey McDaniel, an organizer with Starkville Pride, reassures Mississippi State University students and local LGBT supporters that they are moving forward in fighting for their rights.

Bailey McDaniel, an organizer with Starkville Pride, reassures Mississippi State University students and local LGBT supporters that they are moving forward in fighting for their rights. "We are taking on the city of Starkville officially," she said. "... The parade is set for March 24th and we're not moving the parade and we're not moving Pride. Pride is still a go," she said. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Dr. Kay Brocato of Starkville asks members of the Starkville Pride group if they have any plans to make a list of other wishes they would want to ask for other than the parade.

Dr. Kay Brocato of Starkville asks members of the Starkville Pride group if they have any plans to make a list of other wishes they would want to ask for other than the parade. "When communities and causes collide the best method is to make a list of things each wants, discuss and then bridge toward each other," she said.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Whit Waide speaks to Mississippi State University students and LGBT supporters at the Union during a Starkville Pride meeting Wednesday.

Whit Waide speaks to Mississippi State University students and LGBT supporters at the Union during a Starkville Pride meeting Wednesday. "It's a matter of Constitutional law, you all are the winners, you all are on the right side," he said.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Roberta Kaplan

Roberta Kaplan

 

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

Starkville Pride is planning to bring a lawsuit against the city of Starkville after the board of aldermen voted Tuesday to deny its request to hold a Pride parade next month. 

 

Bailey McDaniel, an organizer with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) support group, confirmed Starkville Pride has retained the representation of the New York legal firm Kaplan and Company, LLP, to sue the city. 

 

Roberta Kaplan, Kaplan and Company's founding member, will represent McDaniel and fellow Starkville Pride organizer Emily Turner, McDaniel announced to enthusiastic applause during a Wednesday evening Starkville Pride meeting on the Mississippi State University campus. 

 

"I am talking to her (Thursday)," McDaniel said. "Emily Turner and myself are the plaintiffs in this case. We're taking on the city of Starkville officially." 

 

McDaniel told The Dispatch the Campaign for Southern Equality, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights across the south, put her in contact with Kaplan and Company early Wednesday. She said the firm has agreed to represent Starkville Pride at no cost to the group. 

 

During the meeting, she said the suit will hopefully bring an injunction against the board's decision so the parade can move ahead. 

 

"The point here is to have our parade," she said. "We're going to have the parade. We're going to have Pride." 

 

Aldermen denied the parade request on a 4-3 vote, with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn opposing the event. None of the aldermen who voted against the parade have offered a reason as to why they did so, and city officials have confirmed the application process was followed properly. 

 

The parade was originally on the consent agenda for Tuesday's meeting, which means it would have been approved with other housekeeping items without discussion. Perkins, who also motioned to deny the request, asked that the parade be removed from consent at the start of Tuesday's meeting. 

 

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller supported the parade. Mayor Lynn Spruill, who has expressed sympathy for Starkville Pride's cause, also spoke in favor of the parade. 

 

 

 

'This is a pretty clear case' 

 

While Kaplan said it's too early to talk about the specifics of the case, or whether it will be filed in state or federal court, Kaplan said the issues seem to be straightforward. She also declined to say when the case might be filed, but it will be done "promptly." 

 

"It seems to me that this is a pretty clear case here," she said. "While the government has a right to add or impose reasonable restrictions on public marches or protests, the one thing I think everyone would agree it cannot do is have those restrictions based on what a group might say. 

 

"Here it's very clear the denial of the permit was based solely on what these people wanted to say, which is that gay folks are equal to everyone else," she added. "That's a real problem under the constitution." 

 

In this matter, Kaplan said, Starkville Pride is simply seeking to enjoy their Constitutional rights. 

 

"My clients intend to enforce their rights under the Constitution to be treated with equal dignity and to be able to speak publicly about matters of public concern the same way anyone else can in this country," she said. 

 

 

 

A proven record 

 

Kaplan is no stranger to taking LGBT rights issues to court. She represented Edit Windsor before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, a landmark case that found a major provision in the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it barred legally married same-sex couples from marriage benefits granted by federal law. 

 

Kaplan has also argued against Mississippi laws, such as in Campaign for Southern Equality v Bryant, which saw U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves strike down Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014. A stay on that decision was issued, until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down gay marriage bans the summer of 2015. 

 

Kaplan also saw Mississippi's ban on same-sex adoption overturned, in the case Campaign for Southern Equality v Mississippi Department of Human Services. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III issued the ruling against the state in March 2016. 

 

 

 

Spruill 'regretful' over board decision 

 

At the beginning of Tuesday's board meeting, aldermen went into executive session to discuss a potential lawsuit. After the meeting adjourned, Spruill confirmed that the discussion focused on litigation that could arise from the parade decision. 

 

On Wednesday, she expressed remorse the issue has deteriorated to this point. 

 

"Obviously, I had hoped the board's actions would not be detrimental to the city and bring a lawsuit," she said. "I regret that we will be dealing with this well past the time when we could have had a quick parade. There's been no detriment to other municipalities that have had them. I've seen the denial of this as nothing that any goodwill can come from. 

 

"I'm further saddened that it's going to cause the city to suffer through whatever is going to come after," she added. "I'm deeply regretful that we are going to fight that battle."

 

 

 

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