Constance McMillen takes fight over same-sex prom date to court
Mississippi teen Constance McMillen wanted to bring a same-sex date to her prom, but rather than allow that to happen, her high school canceled the dance.
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In socially liberal parts of the country, like Los Angeles and Miami, same-sex prom dates are common. In more conservative areas, such as Utah, gay teens sometimes hold separate proms. But in Deep South towns like McMillen’s hometown of Fulton, Mississippi, some school districts simply don’t allow same-sex dating at the prom.Skip to next paragraph
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Still, recent events point to views on sexuality changing in the South, too. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Wednesday said he’d fire state employees who discriminated against gays in the workplace.
Gay rights groups quickly hailed McMillen as a hero for standing up to conservative Southern values. McMillen herself told the Clarion-Ledger that she was inspired by Ceara Sturgis, a senior in Wesson, Miss., who last year insisted on being photographed for the yearbook in a tuxedo. Ms. Sturgis' picture never made it into the yearbook, but her stand was widely reported.
The notion that a lesbian prom date would disrupt education at Itawamba irked activists.
"Eliminating the prom … sends a message of intolerance, and a message that the school is much more interested in playing politics, rather than prioritizing the interests of their student body,” writes Michael Jones at Change.org.
Some conservative groups support the school district. One, the Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based social policy organization, says McMillen’s gambit is part of a broader attempt to force legal recognition of same-sex couples. There is evidence of such a push: School officials in Russellville, Ala., last year reversed its “no-same-sex-dating” policy after the ACLU took the case.
"The district might be motivated by a desire to prevent the ultimate conduct that is presumptively illegal in this state," Liberty Counsel attorney Stephen Crampton told the Clarion-Ledger.
The ACLU says the decision to cancel the prom is a violation of McMillen’s constitutional rights. Mississippi is one of a few states with an antisodomy law still on the books, but a 2003 US Supreme Court decision stuck down all such state laws because they discriminate against Americans.