A woman is suing a Mississippi town after it cited public health
and safety concerns in denying her a business license to open a gay
The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Pat “PJ” Newton, who
is represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Listed as
defendants are the mayor and six aldermen of Shannon, Mississippi.
The complaint states that Mayor Ronnie Hallmark “led a
conspiracy to deny Newton a business license” and openly lobbied
against her plans.
Newton's application for a business license was denied by a 4-to-1
vote on June 4.
Newton, who is openly gay, had in the 1990s operated O'Hara's,
which mainly served LGBT customers. She sold the bar in 1998 and
while renamed, it continued as a gay bar until 2000. She decided to
reopen O'Hara's as a cafe and bar after receiving repeated requests.
At a Shannon Board of Aldermen hearing to review her business
license application, Newton was confronted by a hostile crowd of more
than 30 people opposed to her plans to reopen the bar.
“I went in under the assumption that I would be in front of the
five board members and the mayor and the clerk,” Newton said.
“Which to my complete surprise it was about 30 citizens of
“People of the local churches had gotten together [and] signed a
petition against me opening the bar. It was 192 signatures.”
In a June 28 letter, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
demanded that the Shannon Board of Aldermen approve a business
license for Newton or face a potential federal lawsuit.
the AP that she's “in it as long as it takes. I'm not going