The ACLU of Massachusetts today 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 will include drag performance. The new lawsuit is filed on behalf of the Rural Justice Network. According to the new complaint, the Select Board’s actions continue a pattern of discriminatory treatment, violate free expression and assembly rights, and unlawfully discriminate on the basis of gender. 

“This is discrimination based on the viewpoint our clients seek to express: that all members of the community deserve to live and participate fully, openly, freely, and joyously,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Let’s be clear: The government has no right to censor LGBTQ+ people or their right to assemble and express themselves.” 

In October, 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 earlier this 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.  

“Historically, people identifying as LGBTQIA+ have been barred from being who they truly are,” said the Rural Justice Network. “We simply want to host a community, family-friendly event that provides a safe and fun space to celebrate people of all gender identities, orientations, and expressions.”   

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. 

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 507 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. 

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Free Expression Project, go to:

For more information about the Rural Justice Network, go to: