© 2024 Northeast Indiana Public Radio
NPR News and diverse music.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Underwriter Message

Indiana ACLU sues Loogootee for allegedly blocking PrideFest

A photo from the 2023 Loogootee PrideFest, taken June 10, 2023.
Tracy and Tim Brown-Salsman
/
Photo provided
A photo from the 2023 Loogootee PrideFest, taken June 10, 2023. 

The Indiana American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Loogootee, saying the city illegally blocked this year’s PrideFest. They are requesting the city to allow PrideFest to be held, citing the council’s actions as a First Amendment violation.

The second annual PrideFest was set to take place on Sept. 7 in downtown Loogootee, a city of about 2,600 in southern Indiana.

The City Council approved the event in November 2023. However, the approval was rescinded after a new ordinance passed in February. This change came after a complete turnover in council members at the start of the year.

Tracy Brown-Salsman and his husband Tim are Loogootee residents. They organized both years’ events and serve as board members on the Patoka Valley AIDS Community Action Group.

The first PrideFest was held on June 10 last year on the public square. It’s the same place where many other community events are held. Brown-Salsman said there were no protesters among the 200 people that attended last year’s event.

“There were plenty of families bringing their young children, senior citizens, so it was a family event,” he said. “And that's what we have always strived for, to keep it a family affair. And I can tell you, there are many people in our area looking forward to our next PrideFest.”

Brown-Salsman said the event is being unfairly singled-out by the new council members. Another event, Summer Fest, is able to be held in the same place later this month without requiring the same paperwork.

Brown-Salsman shortly re-filed an application after the February ordinance to get a new approval. This request was never voted on, despite being on the council’s agenda for three months. At the most recent meeting on June 10, the council again passed another event ordinance and voided the previous requests. This means a new request would need to be filed. Brown-Salsman said the new request forms are not available to fill out.

The council lists the new requirements in its June repeal and reissuance of the ordinance, including an $800 fee to use the main stage area.

This is not the first time this has happened, Brown-Salsman said. Loogootee City Council made an ordinance change in 2022 after he displayed a banner that said “Celebrate diversity and inclusion” in the square. The banner was quickly removed, with the city telling Brown-Salsman only city personnel could put displays on town property.

Tim Brown-Salsman said this photo was taken after he and Tracy were refused the right to place their banner. Some residents joined them in a demonstration on their porch, then they walked around town with signs and posed under a billboard placed by an anonymous group of conservatives.
Tracy and Tim Brown-Salsman
/
Photo provided
Tim Brown-Salsman said this photo was taken after he and Tracy were refused the right to place their banner. Some residents joined them in a demonstration on their porch, then they walked around town with signs and posed under a billboard placed by an anonymous group of conservatives.

Brown-Salsman said he is hoping for an injunction so that he will be able to hold the event in the public square, but he also has a backup location picked out as well.

The event will feature Bockeh Big Band, ballet performers, a variety show, a health fair and vendors, according to an event listing. The event is completely free, and is funded through several county and community groups.

He said he and his husband decided to start a PrideFest in Loogootee so local LGBTQ youth could feel safe.

“So many youth of this area have moved away as soon as they could escape it,” he said. “We just want to make it to where they can stay in your hometown.”

Joanie Dugan contributed to this story.