In December 2023, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the North Brookfield Select Board and two of its members after they refused to grant permission for a 2024 Pride celebration on the Town Common because the event would include drag performance. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Rural Justice Network.  

According to the complaint, the Select Board’s actions violate free expression and assembly rights, and unlawfully discriminate on the basis of gender. Furthermore, by denying this permit, the Select Board continues an alleged pattern of discriminatory treatment. 

In October 2023, the Rural Justice Network requested permission to host its fourth annual Small Town Pride celebration on the North Brookfield Town Common in June 2024. During a November Board meeting, after event organizers confirmed the celebration would include a drag performance that would not be hidden from public view in a tent, the Chair and Vice Chair refused to approve the Rural Justice Network’s request and explained that the decision meant that the application for the event permit “doesn’t go forward.”  

This followed the Chair and Vice Chair’s previous attempts to deny the Rural Justice Network the right to include any drag performance in its 2023 Small Town Pride celebration — simply because the officials personally believed that such performance is “wrong.” The 2023 event ultimately went forward as planned after the ACLU and North Brookfield’s legal counsel became involved. In the face of the clear legal advice previously provided, this lawsuit alleges that the latest action by the Chair and Vice Chair is a blatant and intentional violation of free speech, assembly, and anti-discrimination laws. 

The lawsuit, filed in Worcester County Superior Court, seeks relief to allow the Rural Justice Network to host its 2024 Small Town Pride celebration, including drag performance, and to prevent further obstruction in the future.  

Attorney(s)

Ruth Bourquin, Jessica Lewis, Rachel Davidson (ACLU of Massachusetts)

Date filed

December 11, 2023