February 22, 2018 11:24:41 AM
A former Starkville alderman is claiming she warned that Starkville would be confronted with issues such as Tuesday's vote on a Pride parade under "lesbian leadership" in a thinly-veiled swipe at Mayor Lynn Spruill.
Lisa Wynn, who represented Ward 2 for one term before losing last year's election to current alderman Sandra Sistrunk, took to Twitter after Tuesday's vote to thank the four aldermen -- Ward 1's Ben Carver, Ward 3's David Little, Ward 6's Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7's Henry Vaughn -- for denying the parade request.
"Thanks Aldermen @david_little, Carver, Vaughn & Vice Mayor Perkins 4 saying NAY...NO PARADE! @ Starkville_City. I warned my friends this would occur under LESBIAN leadership," Wynn wrote in the tweet.
Wynn told The Dispatch she meant the post to reference Spruill. She said she knew Spruill, based on her "associations" and beliefs about gay rights, would bring related issues before the board for consideration.
"I knew that if our city embraced Ms. Spruill to become mayor, we would be exposed to a lot of gay ideology," Wynn said. "That much, I believed. Last night was proof of that. By no means am I against gay people. I can tell you now I have people in my family who are gay. But I do not think our city would benefit from any gay pride parade at all."
After Wynn lost her re-election bid for alderman last June, she unsuccessfully ran for District 38 state representative, falling to Cheikh Taylor in November.
Spruill: 'I'm sorry this needs to be part of the conversation'
Spruill, when contacted by The Dispatch, said she was aware Wynn's tweet, and was going to ignore her comments, which she said are neither "beneficial nor productive."
"I think this particular issue has created some unpleasant feelings that have been expressed that are very unfortunate," Spruill said. "I prefer not to focus on those kinds of comments. I will continue to believe that we are better than pejorative remarks that hit Twitter."
Spruill said she regretted that such issues needed to enter into the debate.
"I happen to be very sympathetic to the gay pride movement and am supportive of gay rights," Spruill said. "... I'm sorry that this needs to be a part of the conversation. This goes into a very personal vein that really has no place in government business."
Aldermen dealt with gay rights issues twice during the previous term, when former mayor Parker Wiseman still held office.
In January 2014, the city approved a landmark non-discrimination policy that included protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. In September that same year, the board approved a plus-one insurance policy that would have allowed LGBT workers provide insurance to their partners.
The same aldermen who voted against the Pride parade, and Wynn, voted to rescind both policies behind closed doors in January 2015 and refused to offer explanation as to why afterwards.
Wynn said the plus-one issue, which generated months of heated debate as the city's religious base pressured aldermen to do away with the policy, was an example of what LGBT issues do to Starkville.
"You see where that led us," Wynn said. "That led us to nothing but division. It completely caused our community to be divided. That's not who we are as Starkville."
'I tipped the aldermen off'
The Pride parade came before Aldermen after Starkville Pride, a grassroots LGBT support group, submitted a request to hold the parade on March 24. The parade would be the first such one that the city has hosted and, according to organizers, would offer a chance to celebrate the city's LGBT community.
Aldermen denied the request on a 4-3 vote, with Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Little and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller voting against the denial.
The matter was originally on the consent agenda, which means it would have been approved with other housekeeping matters without discussion, until Perkins requested to have it removed at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting.
Aldermen placed the parade on the consent agenda at a Feb. 16 work session. While Little, Carver and Vaughn were not present at the session, Perkins -- who pulled the item from consent on Tuesday and motioned to deny the parade -- was and offered no opposition to putting the matter on the consent agenda.
However, Wynn, in a follow-up tweet, took credit for turning the vote against the parade.
"I tipped the Aldermen off about the language...PRIDE. Secured the 4 votes this weekend. I'm still working it," she wrote.
Wynn also claimed to The Dispatch that she reached out indirectly to board members.
"When I learned of that agenda item being placed on consent, I will be honest with you, I tried my best to warn the other aldermen what they were getting into," Wynn said. "I did it in a roundabout way. I don't like to call them and tell them what to do. I reached out to people who I know have their ear."
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