Starkville denies request for LGBT pride parade

Organizer of Starkville Pride and the Pride Parade Bailey McDaniel cries after hearing the 4-3 vote denying their request for a LGBT Pride parade during the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
LOGAN KIRKLAND
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted to deny the request to hold an LGBT pride parade after hearing 16 people speak in favor of the event during its meeting Tuesday night.

The board approved the motion to deny the request with a 4-3 vote. 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 voted in favor of denying the request.

The motion to deny the request was made by Perkins.

The grassroots group Starkville Pride applied for a special event request to host the 2018 Pride Parade and have city participation with in-kind services. The item was previously on the consent agenda, but was pulled off by Perkins at the beginning of the meeting Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk moved to go into executive session at the beginning of the meeting to discuss perspective litigation involving the Pride Parade.

No action was taken during executive session.

CITIZEN COMMENTS

The 16 people who spoke in favor of having the pride parade were made up of Mississippi State University students, Starkville business owners, MSU officials and other citizens.

The two people who spoke against having the parade were resident Dorothy Isaac and pastor of Josey Creek Missionary Baptist Church Thomas Rogers.

Organizer of Starkville Pride and the Pride Parade Bailey McDaniel began the citizen comments asking the aldermen to please approve the parade, because it is an event promoting inclusion and celebration.

“We’re asking you to join us,” McDaniel said.

Owner of the Pop Porium, Rosa Dalomba, said the removal of the item from the consent agenda troubles her because she constantly defends Mississippi to people who live outside of the state. She said she knows Starkville is a community that is growing and becoming more diverse.

“This shocks me that we’re having this conversation in 2018,” Dalomba said.

After a number of people spoke in favor of the parade, resident Dorothy Isaac said she was against the parade because “God created Adam and Eve.”

“Do not turn our city into a sin city,” Isaac said. “It should not be this.”

Resident Kevin Williams came to the podium and said many years ago African American people would be denied the same type of request.

He said this was an opportunity for the city to be on the right side of history with their vote to approve the services for the parade.

Williams said aldermen are afraid to vote in favor of having the parade because of what some constituents have to say, then they are not there for the right reason.

“Now’s the time to lead,” Williams said. “Now, ask yourself this question. What are you afraid of?”

BOARD DISCUSSION

After Perkins made the motion, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker asked if the application for the event was correctly filed in terms of hosting a specific event, which it was.

City officials said the Board of Aldermen has not denied a request for any applications that have been properly filed since 2014. If it has been denied or stopped, it was due to an incomplete application.

Mayor Lynn Spruill said she spoke with Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, who praised the success of the city’s LGBT pride parade.

“I think it is one of those things that shows an inclusiveness in our community that is something I have long said we are,” Spruill said. “We are diverse, we are not divided in my opinion and I don’t want to start having that view of us now.”

She said the parade could be an opportunity for people to come to the downtown area and be a part of a group.

Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller said the issue will likely be one of the biggest the city board will face and hopes members will take that into consideration.

“I think you have to ask yourself the question, why wouldn’t we support this?” Miller said.

Miller said beyond it being a personal and social issue, they have to look at this as an economic development issue.

During his discussion, Miller said during the brief break the board took, he noticed a reporter from the Associated Press has taken notice to their possibility of denying the request for the pride parade.

He said if we vote to deny this tonight, there will be another tweet saying the board voted to deny the request and the Associated press has 12. 3 million followers.

“That’s 12.3 million people who immediately formulate a negative opinion about the city of Starkville,” Miller said. “It suddenly becomes what Starkville is not,”

Miller asked the board where do they see themselves in history after this vote, especially with the movement of LGBT rights across the nation.

“I hope you can think about that before you make you’re vote tonight,” Miller said. “It’s more than just our personal beliefs on the board.”

There was no discussion or comments from the board members who voted in favor of denying the parade request.

Carver declined to comment on why he voted for the denial of the parade.

The other three aldermen that voted against the proposed parade did not respond to requests for comment.

Spruill said she was “extremely disappointed” with the vote of the board.

“I think it sends a message that we are not the inclusive community that I believe us to be,” Spruill said.

COMMENTS FROM STARKVILLE PRIDE

McDaniel said after hearing the vote, she was shocked by the decision.

"I really wish that the city could have been a part of this historic event for Starkville, but they're not," McDaniel said. "All I can say is that this isn't the last they will hear from us specifically about this issue,"

As for the next steps, McDaniel said their organization will be contacting the ACLU, The Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center over last night's decision.

"We will be taking action against this," McDaniel said."There was no means to deny our application. It was a perfectly fine application,"

McDaniel referenced House Bill 1523, also known as the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from government discrimination act" as to why their properly submitted request was denied.

"I don't think they realized what they've just done," McDaniel said.

When asked about potential litigation, Spruill said she is worried about what the future holds.

"There's always a concern when someone wants to sue the city," Spruill said.

Mississippi State Director of the Human Rights Campaign Rob Hill provided a statement to the Starkville Daily News on the boards decision to deny the request for the parade.

"Twice now Starkville has shown it is not supportive of its LGBTQ residents, and the LGBTQ community will not forget," Hill said. "It's disappointing that the Starkville Board of Aldermen would deny LGBTQ people in Starkville the chance to celebrate Pride in their own city."

McDaniel said she wanted to thank the large number of people who came out to show their support of the Pride Parade. She said this isn't what the people of Starkville want, because people of Starkville love the people of Starkville.

When asked what message the vote gives to her, McDaniel said this isn't representative of Starkville and the board of alderman, but of those who voted in favor of the denial.

"This is representative of the aldermen that said they wanted to deny this request," McDaniel said. "This says that, to them, we don't matter."

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