Discrimination | Gay Bar | Mississippi | News | Pat Newton

Mississippi Town Faces Federal Lawsuit After Denying Business License to Gay Bar: VIDEO


The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit against Shannon, Mississippi for denying a business license to Pat Newton, a lesbian, who wanted to open a gay bar in the town in order to provide a safe space for LGBT in the area to socialize.

Watch Newton speak about applying for the license and being denied before a hostile crowd of 30 to 40 people, AFTER THE JUMP...

SPLC describes the lawsuit and its circumstances:

The complaint describes how the town of Shannon and its leaders denied a business license to Pat Newton, a lesbian, who owns O’Hara’s bar, in violation of her right to free speech and equal protection under the First and 14th Amendments.

A town cannot deny a license because of hostility toward members of a particular group. It also lacks legitimate authority to deny a license to prevent someone like Newton from sending a positive message about LGBT people in Mississippi or to prevent her from providing them a safe space.

“The mayor and aldermen have no legitimate reason to deny Pat Newton the business license,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “Their opposition is rooted in blatant hostility toward a legitimate business, simply because a lesbian would operate it and because it would serve the LGBT community. They have discriminated against our client, even relishing the opportunity to discriminate.”

One alderman has stated that the town, which struggles with a shrinking tax base, welcomes the prospect of fighting a federal lawsuit rather than allow a revenue-generating gay bar to operate within the town’s boundaries. The complaint refers to him stating that he is looking forward to this lawsuit because litigation would likely delay the opening of O’Hara’s even longer.

NewtonAlso disturbing is the way the town confronted Newton about the business:

When she asked about obtaining a local business license, the mayor told her to submit an application and attend a board of aldermen meeting on June 4, when the board would vote on her application. Newton thought the hearing would be routine, but instead she encountered a hostile crowd of 30 to 40 people.

The mayor asked her to justify why she should be permitted to open the bar. After stating her reasons, the mayor asked the aldermen and citizens to raise their concerns. Newton was confronted with questions laced with insults from citizens and aldermen. One resident asked how Newton could call herself a Christian. Another asked whether she would let her daughter go into “a bar like that.”

At the end of the hearing, an adviser to the town informed the board that Newton had met all the requirements for her application but that the application could be denied on public health and safety concerns. The board denied the application by a 4-to-1 vote – even though no legitimate evidence regarding public health and safety was presented.

Watch Newton speak about applying for the license and being denied before a hostile crowd of 30 to 40 people, AFTER THE JUMP...

Read more on the lawsuit here.

Read the complaint here.

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  1. The lawsuit may be directed at Shannon, but keep in mind Shannon is only about 10 miles south of Tupelo, MS - world headquarters of Bryan Fischer's American Family Assciation. I'm pretty sure a lot of that hostility was a direct result of AFA's involvement.

    Posted by: AdamTh | Oct 1, 2013 2:31:01 PM

  2. Hope she ends up OWNING that town and firing those right-wing nutsacks.

    Posted by: bear | Oct 1, 2013 2:47:08 PM

  3. What the hell is wrong with people? This kinda stuff makes my head hurt.

    Posted by: Ben Nevis | Oct 1, 2013 2:58:04 PM

  4. Until 2007, Shannon was home to Rumors, the gay bar featured in the Kevin Smith/Malcolm Ingram film Small Town Gay Bar.

    Posted by: woody | Oct 1, 2013 2:58:09 PM

  5. What a really nice Lesbian...but WHY would you want to live in Missishitty? MOVE !

    Posted by: Stephen | Oct 1, 2013 3:02:09 PM

  6. Why did she have to explain what type of bar it was going to be?
    Is anyone required to describe the future clientele of an establishment? Does any bar owner have to say, "This will be a biker bar," or, "This will be a stupid redneck bar" ?

    I would think that one just needs a license to open a business and a liquor license - and that's it.

    But this is the Deep South. Not long ago the people in the meeting would have been wearing white hoods and burning a cross in the parking lot.

    Posted by: gr8guyca | Oct 1, 2013 3:24:40 PM

  7. THESE are the people who deserve medals.

    Posted by: Tigerama | Oct 1, 2013 3:38:41 PM

  8. my sister moved from long island to mississippi 20 years ago and turned into a huckabee loving, fox news watching bigot.
    it's in the water.
    now, i'm like "who are you?"

    Posted by: woody | Oct 1, 2013 3:42:14 PM

  9. This is just unbelievable. There is no reason to deny this woman a license to open a gay bar - except homophobia. If people don't like gays then all the more reason why gays people having "their own bars" is what you'd want. This way their gayness won't have to be "in your face." Right?

    I'm suspecting that the most vociferous opponents of this bar are probably terrified that their secret stash of gay (or lesbian) porn may be discovered one day!

    Posted by: Mary | Oct 1, 2013 3:43:26 PM

  10. WHY didn't they film the crowd? One three minute youtube videos of screaming bigots is worth a million hours of heartfelt explanation.

    Posted by: Chaz | Oct 1, 2013 4:09:14 PM

  11. Yet, Hooters is okay...because Jesus? Yeah, right. Religion is fatal poison...every time.

    Posted by: Geoff | Oct 1, 2013 4:10:11 PM

  12. Had enough cash been exchanged under the table this would not have happened. The applied leverage stinks of corruption. I doubt the aldermen care about gay issues one way or the other.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 1, 2013 4:15:25 PM

  13. Thank goodness for the courts. They've saved many a gay. Otherwise they might be run out of town.

    Posted by: GH | Oct 1, 2013 4:21:31 PM

  14. I honestly thought that was a man.

    Posted by: patrick | Oct 1, 2013 4:28:39 PM

  15. as nina simone once sang, "mississippi god d**n!"

    Posted by: alguien | Oct 1, 2013 4:35:13 PM

  16. That is one brave lady-and a really stupid town.

    Posted by: jarago | Oct 1, 2013 5:17:54 PM

  17. It's ironic that a community that would have enthusiastically supported separate facilities for African Americans would deny a license to one for LGBT Americans.

    Posted by: Rich | Oct 1, 2013 5:21:06 PM

  18. rich, it's a black majority town

    Posted by: woody | Oct 1, 2013 7:22:46 PM

  19. Woody - yep it is, like a lot of cities in Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana. All red states, all full of minorities, most of which are too stupid to realize they're voting against themselves at the polls every single year.

    When you look at all the close-mindedness and hate and IGNORANCE in this country, it's hard to imagine we were ever the greatest country in the world.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 1, 2013 11:18:50 PM

  20. I want to sue you for a gay bar...gay bar...GAY BAR!

    Posted by: FuryOfFirestorm | Oct 1, 2013 11:55:19 PM

  21. This is why we donate to the ACLU.

    Get'em! Spend our donations laying the smackdown on these skidmarks. Kick their asses so hard the siblings they're sexually involved with will feel it!

    Posted by: FFS | Oct 2, 2013 1:34:21 AM

  22. Does anyone expect respect from MissingAssPeeians? The real problems is that their brains and hearts are in the MissingAsses that got pee'd in.

    Posted by: Art | Oct 2, 2013 2:47:01 AM

  23. Woody, so what? Black majority town-I wonder how many blacks have actual power?

    Posted by: Rowan | Oct 2, 2013 11:04:49 AM

  24. From the history of Shannon (on official website)

    "The old downtown part of Shannon was built on land owned by two bachelor brothers, the late George and Ed Shannon, sons of founder Samuel Shannon. Soon people were flocking to the railroad and the new little town was born."

    Bachelor brothers?

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 2, 2013 11:26:17 AM

  25. I would say that we need to send this woman some money so she can afford to fight these people. However, I can't imagine that O'Hara's will be able to make it even if the town is forced to issue a license. Surely the resentful psycho-christians will get the police to harass the place and its patrons. It would probably be smarter by some assessments to drive to Birmingham or Memphis and spend the night to go to a gay bar the way people from rural Virginia do to Richmond and DC gay bars.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 2, 2013 11:28:57 AM

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