The ACLU of Massachusetts sent a letter yesterday to the North Brookfield Select Board, urging them to rescind their recent decision to deny a local community group permission to include a drag show at the group’s upcoming pride celebration. The group, Rural Justice Network, will host “Small Town Pride,” a joyous celebration of inclusivity, on June 24 on the North Brookfield Town Common.
According to the ACLU letter, rescinding this permit because the event includes a drag performance clearly violates the free speech guarantees in Article 16 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also violates the equal protection guarantees enshrined in Article 1 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We call on North Brookfield and all communities in Massachusetts to recognize that discrimination against those who choose to express themselves through drag is inconsistent with our state and federal constitutions and basic democratic principles,” said Ruth Bourquin, senior and managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Let’s be clear: Drag is a creative celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, and the government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people and expression.”
On March 28, the North Brookfield Select Board approved the Rural Justice Network’s request to host “Small Town Pride,” including a drag performance, on the Town Common on June 24. Later, on April 11, a majority of the Select Board decided to rescind permission and reapproved the event only on condition it does not include any drag performance; the decision was based on the majority’s conclusion that a drag show is not “family friendly” and is “wrong.” In a Select Board meeting last night, where the ACLU letter was discussed, the Chair disclosed that his vote was based on his personal view that drag performance is “vulgar and rude.” Such reasoning was recently and roundly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Judicial Court.
The North Brookfield Board’s decision comes as states across the country are introducing and passing bills that attempt to remove LGBTQ+ people from public life. The ACLU is tracking 467 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S., including efforts to ban or censor performances like drag shows.
For more information about “Small Town Pride,” go to: http://ruraljusticenetwork.weebly.com/smalltownpride.html
For the full ACLU letter, go to: https://www.aclum.org/sites/default/files/aclum_letter_to_north_brookfield_re_small_town_pride_-_april_18_2023.pdf