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ACLU sues small town after it rescinded a Pride festival’s approval

Rainbow pride flag and handcuffs. LGBTQ+ discrimination, legislation, and gay rights concept.
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The ACLU of Indiana is suing the city of Loogootee, Indiana, after it rescinded approval for the town’s Pride festival and gave organizers no opportunity to get approval, allegedly causing a First Amendment violation.

The complaint discusses the alleged unfair treatment PrideFest organizers have faced in their efforts. After initially being approved on November 3, 2023 for a September 7 celebration, the city suddenly rescinded its offer in an ordinance that was introduced in February. An additional ordinance was passed on June 10, 2024 that further tightened restrictions on PrideFest.

“The City of Loogootee’s revocation of its November 2023 permission to hold PrideFest 2024 and its actions since that time violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk in a statement.

“The latest city special events ordinance is unconstitutional in many ways. It, and the actions of the City Council, clearly indicate that Councilmembers are trying to deny our plaintiffs the ability to hold their event because they disagree with a celebration of the LGBTQ community.”

The ordinance passed in February overruled the prior procedure for organizing events and set up a formal process for using public spaces. This led to the prior permit being revoked, with the city council referring to PrideFest implicitly in its public announcement.

Tim and Tracy Brown-Salsman organized a pride festival last year in the town of 2600 under the name Loogootee Pride, and it occurred without any major problems, beyond some roads not being fully closed for the festivities.

Following these rules, organizers – now Patoka Valley AIDS Community Action – applied for a new permit, but no indication was given as to when the new permit would be reviewed, according to the complaint.

Months passed, and organizers attended every city council meeting. The PrideFest permit was on the agenda for many of these meetings, but it was never discussed.

Other festivals that were more costly for the city and required more road closures were greenlit, including Loogootee SummerFest, a three-day event, compared to PrideFest’s single day for only seven hours.

Additionally, a church held a BBQ just near the city hall, which had no discussion at any public council meetings.

An additional ordinance, a special events ordinance, was suddenly discussed by the city council on Monday. No copies of the ordinance were shared prior to the meeting, and all city council members first received it during the very same meeting. Yet it still passed.

This ordinance makes the process for organizing events more complicated, including requiring multiple fees, restricting the locations where events can be held, requiring detailed personal information as well as expensive insurance, having sound restrictions, and it can be rejected for subjective reasoning.

The financial strain of this is causing Patoka Valley AIDS Community Action “irreparable harm,” says the lawsuit, due to the group having already spent money on the event.

The ACLU is suing to get rid of this public events ordinance for First Amendment violations, to cover the cost of damages faced by PrideFest organizers, and to allow PrideFest 2024 to occur.

LGBTQ Nation reached out to the Loogootee mayor Brian Ader’s office for comment, however the Adeer was not available at the time of the call. This article will be updated accordingly.

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