Constance McMillen, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi can't go to her school's prom because it was cancelled. Thanks to her. On her big night, Constance wanted to bring her girlfriend as a date and wear a tux. When she asked school authorities if she could, they said no. The ACLU came to her aide and the school cancelled the prom.
According to the report by the Clarion Ledger, Constance sees this as retaliation. "Oh, my God. That's really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one," she said. "A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this, so in a way it's really retaliation."
Christine Sun, the ACLU's senior attorney for its gay rights project told the Clarion Ledger that Constance's constitutional rights were being violated. The Mississippi school's cancellation of the prom and request that private groups sponsor a dance instead allowed them to neatly skirt the issue. "If they set it up privately they probably aren't going to allow gay people to go, and there is nothing that you can do about it," Constance said.
According to the Ledger, gay teens have been struggling for years for acceptance at their school proms. Kids in more conservative states such as Utah and Florida have attended separate but equal proms sponsored by groups such as the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake, and in Miami, Prideline Youth Services. The Clarion Ledger reports that in Florida, kids with same sex dates are now accepted at the "big" dance, although school administrators' reactions still make some uncomfortable.
Conservative group the Liberty Counsel has offered the school free legal help in this matter, although the school has not yet responded to the offer. Liberty Counsel attorney Stephen Crampton tells the Ledger the fight over the prom really isn't about Constance McMillen wanting to dance the night away with her girlfriend. It's about an agenda to force legal recognition of same-sex couples. Crampton noted Mississippi is one of a number of states that still retains its anti-sodomy laws. He did not note that the U.S. Supreme Court found such laws unconstitutional in 2003.
Whether or not she goes to prom, Constance has her grandmother in her corner. Dale McMillen, said she supports her granddaughter's decision to contest the school's policy. "I've always tried to teach my children and my grandchildren that if you believe in something you need to stand up for it," she said. Children, listen to your Grandma Dale.
- Mississippi lesbian alleges retaliation after prom date debate (The Clarion Ledger)
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- Gay and Lesbian Rights / Sexual Orientation Discrimination (FindLaw)
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