GSDP, local businesses show support after LGBT pride parade blocked

 Eat Local Starkville have put stickers on their restaurant doors and windows saying "This business serves everyone."
SDN Staff Report

The Greater Starkville Development Partnership on Thursday morning released a statement in support of the LGBT community after city leaders opted against issuing a permit for a gay pride parade to a local grassroots group.

“As the leader in economic development, tourism, and community development in Starkville, the Partnership echoes the clear message in our mission which states, ‘We believe in the inclusive treatment of all people. We are our best when everyone is equally engaged and valued,’” the GSDP said in a statement following Tuesday’s 4-3 vote by the Starkville Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen on Tuesday night voted against granting a special event permit to Starkville Pride for a Pride Parade to be held downtown on March 24. No reasons were given for why the permit was denied by the four aldermen who voted down the measure: Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A'. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn.

Several businesses and GSDP members downtown have also shown their support for the LGBT community in the wake of the news. The Starkville Community Theatre put up rainbow colors in its front windows and the popular restaurants managed by Eat Local Starkville have put stickers on its restaurant doors and windows saying "This business serves everyone."

SCT Chief Administrative Officer Gabe Smith told the Starkville Daily News that everything the SCT does as an arts organization depends on diversity.

"Community theatre, as I've experienced it, is more about partnership and cooperation than anything else," Smith said. "We need different types of people, with different ideas and backgrounds, to make what we do work and to resonate with any kind of lasting impression. Theatre is like the ultimate 'we-love-everybody-who-wants-to-be-involved' enterprise - we're always putting something together that's greater than the sum of any individual parts, something none of us could ever pull off alone or in isolation."

Smith then said the SCT welcomes everybody and believes that its best moments of creativity and best work as artists comes from an openness and desire to collaborate.

"A significant part of our success - we're 40 years strong - is due to local LGBT performers, volunteers, patrons, supporters, and friends, from the beginning to today," Smith said. "Long before the board's vote this week, we had scheduled to perform 'The Laramie Project,' which now suddenly feels more relevant than ever, to this community at this moment in time. So it feels very easy and natural to me to vocally support our LGBT community in Starkville and beyond."

Rosa Dalomba, owner of The Pop Porium on the city's Main Street, has been an outspoken critic of the decision by the Board of Aldermen and plans to host a gay pride celebration in her store regardless of if a parade is held or not.

"As a business owner, my issue if I take the emotions out of it, I have a big issue with it, because that is hindering our economic development," Dalomba said. "It is not good for us, because you're telling me on the 24th I could have had hundreds of people downtown who eat, who spend money, who shop. Instead, it's just going to be an everyday Saturday in Starkville."

Dalomba said she believes this decision will put Starkville on the wrong side of history.

"It's not just that its a party and a good time, it's about the proof that we are inclusive as a whole and everyone is welcome here in Starkville," Dalomba said.

Dalomba said MSU students are a vibrant part of Starkville's community and economy, and pushing for the Pride parade to take place on campus is telling them that they are not welcome in the community.

"When it comes to them spending money here, every business here has to actively get the student to spend their money down here," Dalomba said. "We can't have it both ways. It should be inclusive to all, and we should show them that their dollars are as appreciated as anyone else."

In turn, Mississippi State spokesman Sid Salter told the Starkville Daily News on Thursday that the university has not taken a position on the issue.

Salter also said the university has not received any formal requests regarding Starkville Pride. However, the university plans to evaluate any requests with the same criteria as all organization requests.

The decision was met with both public outcry and support, but Starkville Pride on Wednesday night confirmed it is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the city of Starkville.

The group has said its rights to free speech and equal protection under the law were violated by the city’s decision to not issue the permit.

Organizers for the group said they would begin preparations for the lawsuit on Thursday.

This is a developing story. Follow the Starkville Daily News for updates.