Mississippi Hates Gays More Than It Loves The Free Market (VIDEO)

Pat Newton
Pat Newton used to run a bar called O’Hara’s in Shannon, Miss. in the 1990s. It was a safe place for LGBT customers to hang out without fear of discrimination and was the only gay bar within a 100 mile radius, which included Tupelo. Newton closed the bar but recently decided to re-open it. So she applied for the business license: a detail she thought would be a routine matter turned out to be anything but.

The hearing before the Board of Aldermen took place on June 4, when Newton was confronted by an angry crowd of about 30 people. A petition was presented, signed by 200 of Shannon’s 1,800 residents. Newton faced insulting questions like “How can you call yourself a Christian?” and “Would you let your daughter go into a bar like that?” We can only imagine the hurt and humiliation that Pat underwent among that hostile group. Yet she stood by her request. At the end of the night, Newton was informed that, even though her application was in order and all requirements were met, she would be denied her license. The Aldermen cited concerns for public health and safety. Seriously? What is it about gays drinking, listening to music and socializing that they think is unsafe or unhealthy? The sheer nastiness of the 4-1 decision to deny the application is breathtaking. Newton was devastated:

“I only wanted to reopen a business that meant so much to so many people. I’ve already invested a great deal of time and money into my business. I’m committed to my business and this community. It’s wrong for the board to deny my permit because they don’t want a gay bar reopened in the community.”

Thankfully, the Southern Poverty Law Center got wind of the fiasco and sent a letter to the Aldermen of the good town of Shannon demanding that they approve Newton’s application or face a lawsuit. The letter to the board and the mayor advised that the town was in violation of the 14th Amendment, noting that

“… for well over a century, it has been unconstitutional for a municipality to deny a business license to an applicant on account of hostility towards a particular group.”

Pat Newton is an American and, like all of us, has the right to open a business. You’d think that conservatives, of all people, would understand that. After all, the market is always right and the market in Shannon wants a bar where gay folk can be safe as they socialize. Uh-oh, can you say “cognitive dissonance?”

Though we have made some progress in this new civil rights battle, there is still a long way to go. As long as small-minded, fearful people exist, there will be discrimination. That is a sad fact. But we also have entities like the SPLC who will use the legal system to aid in that fight. Hopefully, the town fathers of Shannon, Mississippi will get it through their thick heads that this country is ruled by a Constitution that does not allow them to discriminate just because they don’t like somebody.

Here’s the report from the SPLC: