MISSISSIPPI – In response to the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s latest vote to approve the parade permit application from Starkville Pride, Starkville Pride’s attorney, Roberta A. Kaplan, a renowned civil rights attorney and founding partner of Kaplan & Company, LLP, issued the following statement:
“Bailey McDaniel, Emily Turner and Starkville Pride stood up to vindicate the right to freedom of speech held by every American, no matter whether they are straight or gay. 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. We look forward to celebrating Pride with the LGBT community of Starkville and the rest of Mississippi on March 24.”
Starkville Pride, a Mississippi community organization committed to LGBT equality and dignity, filed a federal lawsuit in late February against the city of Starkville for denying a parade permit application to hold a parade. In a highly unusual and secretive process, the city’s Board of Aldermen voted to deny the permit despite widespread town support and no apparent logistics, security or cost concerns. The Board’s decision to ban speech by Starkville Pride on city streets is a textbook violation of the First Amendment and its discriminatory treatment, based solely on LGBT-related animus, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
Mississippi is home to 60,000 LGBT adults and an estimated 11,400 transgender youth and adults, according to 2016 data published by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. The state is also home to 3,500 same-sex couples, 29 percent of whom are raising children—the highest rate in the nation.
The case, Starkville Pride et. al. v. City of Starkville, was filed Monday afternoon in United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division.