In Shannon, Miss., Pat, “PJ” Newton is fighting a town council to open a gay bar and café. Newton had owned one in the same spot back in the 1990s, but this time around she is encountering resistance from the town. Residents of the town have signed a petition to keep the bar from opening and the council is very much not in favor of it due to anti-gay sentiment. But Newton argues that the bar is more than just a watering spot. It’s a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks can feel free to come, hang out and be themselves:
…O’Hara’s is more than a bar: Like the Stonewall Inn and Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church before it, Newton’s bar would be a sanctuary for politically marginalized individuals and a symbol of freedom and equality. It not only would make free speech possible for the people who gather there, but would itself be a form of free speech, the lawsuit contends. “In opening and maintaining the bar, Newton intends to convey a particularized message: it is okay to be openly gay, and LGBT people are due an equal and respected place in the community,” the complaint reads.