Constance McMillen case: proms as gay-rights battleground
A federal judge said a Mississippi high school violated Constance McMillen's rights when it said she couldn't bring a girlfriend to prom. But the school is avoiding the gay rights issue by canceling prom and allowing parents to sponsor a substitute dance.
(Page 2 of 2)
But bringing same-sex dates to the prom is becoming increasingly accepted – even in parts of the South. The Los Angeles Unified School District allows for same-sex dates, and this week, the principal of Bleckley County High School in Georgia said the school will allow a gay senior to take his boyfriend to the prom.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Constance said in an ACLU press release that she hopes to attend the private prom, though she has not yet received an invitation. But she will attend Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition’s Second Chance Prom on May 8, which is sponsored by Grammy-winning band Green Day and former N’Sync member Lance Bass.
The event is open to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in the state and straight students who are LGBT-supportive. Constance extended an invitation to all her fellow students Tuesday.
Black and white students across the South have been instrumental in forcing their schools to integrate dances racially. Could that happen with gay students?
Costello says that she doesn’t expect change quickly.
“You have to have a critical mass of students willing to declare themselves gay," she says. "That’s very unlikely in the South, where everyone is expected to confirm to a cultural norm.”
The controversy began when Constance asked her school to lift its prohibition on same-sex couples at the prom. On Feb. 5, a memorandum from the school to students that said prom dates must be of the opposite sex. When the ACLU became involved soon after, the school canceled the prom, saying the ACLU's challenge had caused disruptions.
Constance has appeared recently on several national television shows including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” DeGeneres presented Constance, who has a 3.8 grade point average, with a $30,000 college scholarship from a digital media company Tonic.com.
Last weekend, Constance attended the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Safe Schools Advocacy Summit in Washington “to advocate for legislation that will make schools safer and more accepting for all students and prohibit the kind of discrimination that Constance has experienced,” according to the ACLU’s website.
The summit hoped to bring attention to the Student Non-Discrimination Act – a bill pending in Congress — that would prohibit lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) discrimination in public schools and provide recourse when schools discriminate.