ACLU litigation continues against Select Board
A local Pride celebration in North Brookfield will move forward on June 29, after approval last night by the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee.
In December 2023, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the Select Board on behalf of the Rural Justice Network, after two members of the Select Board refused to grant permission for Small Town Pride on the Town Common because the event will include drag performance. While this year's event will move forward as planned, the ACLU's lawsuit against the Town and two members of the Select Board will move forward including to prevent further obstruction in the future.
“This approval is welcome news for everyone in North Brookfield who will enjoy this year’s joyous celebration of pride and inclusivity,” said Ruth Bourquin, senior and managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people or their right to assemble and express themselves. Such freedom of expression makes our culture and communities stronger.”
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.”
These actions follow the Chair and Vice Chair’s attempts last year to deny the Rural Justice Network the right to include any drag performance in its 2023 Small Town Pride celebration simply because they personally believe that such performance is “wrong.” The 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, the new 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.
“We are extremely pleased that Small Town Pride 2024 is on for June 29, 2024,” said Rural Justice Network. “While the lawsuit will continue to ensure that we and others are not discriminated against in the future, we are pleased the Town finally gave us approval for 2024.”
The North Brookfield Select Board’s actions come as states across the country are trying to restrict how and when LGBTQ+ people can be themselves, limiting access to books about them and trying to ban or censor performances like drag shows. The ACLU is tracking 388 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures in 2024.
For more information about Rural Justice Network v. Town of North Brookfield, go to: https://www.aclum.org/en/cases/rural-justice-network-v-town-north-brookfield
For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Free Expression Project, go to: https://www.aclum.org/en/free-expression-project
For more information about the Rural Justice Network, go to: https://www.ruraljusticenetwork.com/