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Mississippi

Federal lawsuit against Miss. town for denying gay bar permit to go to trial

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. — A woman’s federal lawsuit that accuses the leaders of a north Mississippi town of conspiring to prevent her from opening a gay bar by denying her a business license will go to trial Jan. 26, 2015, in Aberdeen.

Pat Newton

Pat Newton

Pat “PJ” Newton filed the federal lawsuit last fall against the mayor and several aldermen of Shannon, Miss., a town of about 1,700 in Lee County where Newton has been trying to open a cafe and bar called O’Hara’s to cater to the gay community.

Newton argues the mayor and aldermen declined to issue the paperwork for a bar she wanted to open because it would cater to LGBT customers.

The city has denied the allegations in briefs filed with the court. However, the court briefs offer no explanation of why the paperwork was denied.

The lawsuit said the town had no legitimate reason to deny the request for a business license.

The 55-year-old Newton, who is a lesbian, is seeking monetary damages and an order to allow her to open the business.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing the Memphis, Tenn., woman in the lawsuit.

Newton told The Associated Press in an October interview that she first opened a gay bar called O’Hara’s in the same location in Shannon in 1994 and operated it without problems until 1998, when she sold it to take on new business ventures.

The new owners continued to run a gay bar there called “Rumors” until 2010, according to the lawsuit. Rumors was profiled in a 2006 documentary called “Small Town Gay Bar” about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the rural South.

The board of aldermen denied the request on a 4-to-1 vote last June then refused to reconsider the decision during a meeting in July.

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29 more reader comments:

  1. You go girl whoop some ass!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:10pm
  2. Best of luck!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:14pm
  3. The “Land of Dixie” for those who are White & St8. Ya’ll come back now. :(

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:17pm
  4. Give em hell. Show those rednecks to to stomp some ass.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:19pm
  5. I love the state of Mississippi, but it’s one of the most gay unfriendly states in the united state…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:21pm
  6. ....with South Carolina running a close second!

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:34pm
  7. It’s Mississippi is anyone surprised by this, it’s not right and I’m glad she’s fighting back though

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:22pm
  8. Do you really think this kind of thing only happens in the South?

    Replied on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:45pm
  9. Apparently we can’t be around each other now??

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:23pm
  10. Excuse me but this is America

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:26pm
  11. best wishes- kick some ass

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:27pm
  12. I hope she wins. But if she does, she can expect them to be looking for ANY reason to shut her down. It will probably boarder on harassment.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:31pm
  13. So much for the GOP’s staunch belief in capitalism.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:32pm
  14. I remember reading about this a while back. I’m glad she’s filed a lawsuit against the town.

    Also, I saw that documentary “Small Town Gay Bar” mentioned in this article. It’s a good documentary and available on Netflix.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:33pm
  15. She looks like a woman that is NOT to be trifled with!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:36pm
  16. In a town that probably has twice as many bars as they have churches! Go Christians Go!
    ………
    Too many Christians, not enough lions!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:38pm
  17. I live in Natchez Mississippi and you cannot blame the whole state for a few simple minded people. Closed minded people are everywhere not just here. I hope she wins.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:39pm
  18. What the fuck we pay our damn taxes, we get treated like fuccking shit & its miss unhappy rednecks

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:51pm
  19. So lets me get this straight, people can open a private bakery, and deny gay couple cake. But yet a person can’t create a gay bar?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 4:58pm
  20. Sue the hell out of those bigoted rednecks.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:33pm
  21. Some people are just fools!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 5:50pm
  22. So much hate being spewed here against Mississippi. So little support for this woman who is taking a stand. Priorities are messed up. There are a lot of activists working hard in Mississippi to create change. Your bigotry against the South is overshadowing it. It seems certain bigotry is acceptable.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:05pm
  23. Brave!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:25pm
  24. Just mean

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 6:50pm
  25. Good

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 7:43pm
  26. Best of luck Miss.!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:39pm
  27. Move to Aus. :)

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 12:58am
  28. This is why I hate being a openly gay teen in Mississippi. I’m going to make a change one day though. (:

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 1:01am
  29. I know someone from Oxford he told me it’s was open to new ideas there. But he’s a hick so what would he know!

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 4:29am