A local pride celebration in North Brookfield will move forward with a drag performance, after the Select Board, through the town’s attorney, today confirmed the “event has the authorization needed from the Board of Selectmen.” The new confirmation comes after the North Brookfield Select Board this week rescinded a previous vote to deny a permit for “Small Town Pride” because it included a drag show—but refused to expressly reinstate their prior approval for the event. 

“This is welcome news for everyone in North Brookfield who will enjoy this joyous celebration of inclusivity,” said Ruth Bourquin, senior and managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “We hope that all Massachusetts communities take note: discrimination against those who choose to express themselves through drag is inconsistent with our state and federal constitutions. Such freedom of expression makes our culture and communities stronger.” 

“The Rural Justice Network has worked hard to make Small Town Pride 2023 an enjoyable experience for North Brookfield, and are ecstatic to hear that we can continue with our plan to give this community the event they deserve,” said Rural Justice Network event organizers. “The support we’ve received recently has not gone unnoticed, and we are thankful to have the confidence that we are making a difference in all the best ways.” 

On March 28, the North Brookfield Select Board approved the Rural Justice Network’s request to host “Small Town Pride,” including a drag performance. 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 never “family friendly” and is “wrong.” The ACLU sent a letter to the Select Board on April 18, urging Board members to rescind this decision and noting that it violated both the state and U.S. constitutions. On April 25, the Select Board, facing potential litigation, voted unanimously to rescind the ban on drag performance, but refused to reinstate the permit that had been granted on March 28, leaving the event in flux for organizers. 

According to North Brookfield’s town attorney, "the March 28, 2023 vote of the Board remains in place, approving [Rural Justice Network’s] use of the Town Common as originally proposed.” As a result of this new clarification, the “Small Town Pride” celebration will take place at the Town Common on June 24 and include all members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“As a member of the local community, I am so glad that Small Town Pride will take place as originally planned,” said Tanya Neslusan, executive director of MassEquality. “And as a member of the LGBTQ community, I know that this event will mean a lot for our friends and neighbors.”  

The North Brookfield Select Board’s actions come as states across the country are introducing and passing bills that attempt to remove LGBTQ+ people from public life. The ACLU is tracking 469 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S., including efforts to ban or censor performances like drag shows.  

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to: www.aclum.org

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