Pat "PJ" Newton of Memphis, Tenn., has field a federal lawsuit against the town of Shannon, Miss., its mayor and several aldermen after she was denied a business license to open a bar geared towards gays and lesbians.
She not only sued the town of Shannon, but its mayor, several of the alderman in federal court.
READ: Pat Newton's federal lawsuit against town of Shannon, Miss.
Newton told FOX13 News the trouble started when she went before the Shannon Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting on June 4 to have her business license approved to open a gay bar called O'Haras. She says the business license was denied in a 4-1 vote by the board.
"It was a little bit of hostility I felt like from the townspeople as well as the aldermen," she said.
Newton said she doesn't understand why Shannon, some 120 miles southeast of Memphis and south of Tupelo, has been hostile toward her this go around, saying she didn't have a problem when she ran a gay bar before in the town.
"So I don't know what happened as far as the difference in the town," Newton said. "I would think it would be more progressive now as opposed to 1994, but it seems like we have gone back."
The town of Shannon is 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," said David Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director with the Southern Poverty Law Center. "To take on this case was simple for us. We are standing with PJ, and we will be with her to the end."
Newton said she spent thousands of dollars bringing the building back up to code, and that she got approval from the fire marshal before the city denied her business license. She says she was less than two weeks away from opening when that happened and that 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," Dinielli said. "We think that is clearly why the town said no to her, while at other times saying yes to other people."
"Small towns just cannot discriminate, and there is probably tons of it that goes on," Newton said. "We just don't know about it, and I am just one of those people who decided to stand up and stop it."