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Small town Pride event, including drag show, given go-ahead

A Pride celebration that includes a drag performance scheduled for a small Massachusetts town has the proper authority to take place as originally planned, the town's lawyer wrote in a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, ending weeks of uncertainty about the event.

The clarification Friday from a lawyer for the town of North Brookfield came two days after the three-member select board rescinded a previous vote to deny a permit for the event organized by the Rural Justice Network because it included a drag show, which two members of the board found objectionable.

The board then held another vote on whether to give the green light to the event, but those two members abstained, meaning the measure failed.

The Rural Justice Network and the ACLU of Massachusetts were unclear if that meant the Pride event could go on.

But the town's lawyer in Friday's letter said the event — drag show included — could take place on the town common as planned on June 24 because the board's permission originally given in March remains in place.

“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,” the organization said in a statement.

Friday's letter ended weeks of back-and-forth over the event.

The select board first approved Rural Justice Network’s request during a meeting in March.

But the board voted 2-1 at its April 11 meeting to pull permission, ruling that a drag show violated restrictions on “adult entertainment” in the town of fewer than 5,000 residents about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Boston. They said the event could go on without the drag show.

The ACLU in a letter to the board dated April 18 said the town was violating the Rural Justice Network’s constitutional rights and asked the board to restore full permission for the event in order to “avoid potential litigation.”

“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.”


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