When Alderman David Little of Ward 3 announced he would abstain from voting on the reconsideration of the denial of the Starkville Pride Parade, it left Mayor Lynn Spruill to break the tied vote. Spruill voted in favor of permitting the parade which will be held on March 24.
Little originally voted to deny the parade proposal along with Alderman Ben Carver, of Ward 1, Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, of Ward 6, and Henry Vaughn Sr., of Ward 7. Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, of Ward 2, Jason Walker, of Ward 4, and Patrick Miller, of Ward 5, voted for approving the parade. The votes remained consistent in the second vote except for Little abstaining.
In a night where the role of the mayor was heavily discussed by Perkins and Vaughn, Spruill's role came into play and decided the vote.
“You are always ready to do whatever is necessary at the time,” Spruill said after the meeting. “The role of the mayor, until I get to vote, is to run the meeting and oversee the day-to-day activities. I got a chance to weigh in on an issue that was controversial and important to us. I was happy to vote.”
Spruill decided to limit the time each side had to argue for the the vote to 15 minutes a piece, a decision Perkins and Vaughn protested. The two Aldermen said it was not her role to make rule changes and every citizen deserved a chance to be heard.
“I think you (Spruill) should let every citizen have the right to speak, instead of you (Spruill) control the board,” Vaughn said. “The board controls this, you (Spruill) don’t control this.”
There were multiple members of the Starkville community who came forward to argue in support or against the parade in citizen comments. Ryan Handran was among those in support of the parade.
Handran said he is originally from Wyoming and served twice in Iraq as a combat medic. He said he is straight and used a Bible passage from the book of Acts to describe the sin he felt Starkville committed by denying the parade.
He read Acts 10:28 in the meeting.
“And he said to them, you yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man that is not a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” Handran said quoting Acts. “Yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
Handran outlined the sin as bigotry. He said it has become apparent the city he loved is overcome with the sin.
“As a veteran I am disgusted by your lack of respect to the freedom given to every person who walks this great countries soil,” Handran said. “I am a straight man, you are not even taking something away from me, but an attack on my peers is an attack on me, you being elected aldermen were not given the power to deny Americans their constitutional rights.”
Johnny Buckner was most prominent among those who spoke against the parade. Buckner, pastor of New Horizons Christian Fellowship said he hoped the Board of Alderman would, “approve the permit in due time.”
However, he followed that statement by saying he hoped they would do so without giving “city endorsement or sponsorship from the pride parade, and will caution parade participants against activity which would be clearly illegal.”
He felt the aldermen were not made aware of hidden details about the parade. He claimed there was no mention of “LGBT, Gay, Homosexual or Lesbian in the Public Agenda distributed.” Buckner said LGBT was hidden in the small print two times in a list of sponsors. He also said Starkville Pride was mentioned, but is a new organization and may be confused with Civic Pride.
The third detail he felt was hidden was the mention of an “Art Market” on the application, but no mention of the “Queer Art Market” being promoted on Twitter by Starkville Pride.
“It seems that these details were intentionally hidden by the applicant and city officials that were in the know,” Buckner said.
However, despite the initial setback President of Starkville Pride Bailey McDaniel said they can now focus on celebrating their pride instead of potential legal proceedings.
“This goes back to what it should be,” McDaniel said after the meeting. “This goes back to an event to be proud of instead of legal adjudication and all of these things."
McDaniel said she saw four years of work pay off and talked about the moment when she knew it would go through.
“I did not let myself get excited for this meeting, because I did not want to be disappointed again,” McDaniel said. “So when Little abstained, I was hopeful, I was excited. I felt relief, I am college student. I run a student organization and am just trying to have pride.”
The parade is scheduled to be held on March 24 and will start on Russell Street and go up to University Drive over to Main Street and back down Lampkin Street to where it started.