Homosexual Bar Owner Claims Discrimination By Town - KMSP-TV

Homosexual Bar Owner Claims Discrimination By Town

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A Memphis woman says that she's being a denied a business license because she's a lesbian and wants to open a gay bar in Mississippi.

She claims that the denial is discrimination, but town leaders say that they just don't want another bar in the area.

PJ Newton says that the trouble started when she went before the Shannon Mayor and Board of Alderman in a June meeting to have her business license approved to open a gay bar. She says it was denied in a 4-1 vote by the board. She is now suing the town, the mayor, and several of the Alderman officials in federal court.

"It was a little bit of hostility," she recalls.

Newton says that she doesn't understand why Shannon has been hostile toward her this time, saying she didn't have a problem when she ran a gay bar before in the town.

"I don't know what happened as far as the difference in the town, I would think it would be more progressive now as opposed to 1994, but it seems like we have gone back," she said.

Town leaders are not speaking on the matter; Newton is being represented by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"The clear fact that she was wronged, we think that everyone knows what happened. She was entitled to open a bar and was denied for reasons that are not consistent with the constitution, to take on this case was simple for us, we are standing with PJ, and we will be with her to the end," said an attorney.

Newton says she spent thousands of dollars bringing the building up to code, and that she got approval from the fire marshal before the city denied her a business license. She says she was less than two weeks away from opening when the city would not let her open for "public health and safety reasons."

"We think everyone knows that PJ is a lesbian and that she wanted to open a gay bar, and we think that is clearly why the town said no to her, while at other times saying yes to other people," said her attorney.

"Small towns just cannot discriminate, and there is probably tons of it that goes on. We just don't know about it, and I am just one of those people who decided to stand up and stop it," reflected Newton.

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