Constance McMillen Should NOT Get Her Own Prom
UPDATE: While the court ruled March 23rd that Constance’s constitutional rights were violated when she was denied the right to attend prom with her girlfriend, the court would not order to school to re-instate prom. From the ACLU:
It’s a victory for all LGBT students that the Court found that students have a First Amendment right to bring a same-sex date and wear gender non-conforming clothes to the prom. While we’re disappointed that the Court ruled that it couldn’t force the school to hold the canceled prom, Constance is thrilled and will continue the fight.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE March 17, 2010
Constance McMillen is 18 years old, a senior, and ready for prom. She’s also gay- and as far as her school district is concerned, there won’t be any prom- for any students. Why?
From the ACLU
The ACLU wants Itawamba County School District officials in Fulton, Mississippi to reverse their decision to forbid a lesbian student from attending prom with her girlfriend and from wearing a tuxedo to the prom. Constance McMillen, a student at Itawamba Agricultural High School, came to the ACLU for help after school officials told her that she could not come to prom with her girlfriend, also a student at IAHS, and that if they arrived separately but slow-danced together they might be thrown out.
In response to a letter demanding that the school allow Constance to attend prom with her girlfriend, the school board issued a statement saying that they were canceling prom for all students.
The blatant discrimination of this young woman has thousands up and arms. Constance has been everywhere in the news and on the internet, telling her story- and also taking a lot of heat from those who disagree with her “lifestyle”.
For the record, the school district has said the residents support the decision- apparently they went door to door and asked each and every one of them before making their decision *insert eyeroll here*.
Many groups have stepped forward and offered to sponsor a “gay friendly” prom (one that anyone could attend, gay or not) so Constance and others don’t have to miss out on this age old tradition.
Those who oppose Constance attending the “normal” prom focus on a “lifestyle” they don’t agree with. Those who support Constance seem to have a better understanding of gay rights as a civil rights issue. Civil rights is about equality, it’s about treating Constance and her female date the same way we treat Jimmy and his female date. They dance on the same dance floor, drink the same punch, take pictures in front of the same cheesey backdrop, and generally party the night away- for the extremely lucky there’s a hotel room involved- but I digress.
A girl from Mississippi, minding her own business, living her life just being a teenager is suddenly the poster child for gay rights. Her detractors want her to shut up. Some who support her do so because they want her to advance the cause of gay rights- to sacrifice.
But she has already sacrificed enough. Her school and its district have attempted to rip a part of her life away- simply because they want to and believe they have the power to do so. The adults who want to refuse Constance don’t plan to flinch in this fight.
The ACLU isn’t backing down from the bigots in Itawamba either. They filed an emergency petition and have all fingers crossed for a quick- and favorable decision by the court. From CNN:
The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for a quick legal decision, hoping to save a high school prom that was allegedly canceled because two lesbians wanted to attend it together.
The rights group filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against a Mississippi school district and high school in federal court Tuesday over the April 2 prom.
The case will be argued before a federal judge in Mississippi on March 22, the ACLU said.
At the center of the lawsuit is a memorandum from the school to students, dated February 5, which says that prom dates must be of the opposite sex.
Also, when McMillen expressed a desire to wear a tuxedo to the prom, the district superintendent told her only male students were allowed to wear them, according to court documents.
Superintendent Teresa McNeece also told McMillen that she and her girlfriend could be ejected from the prom if other students complained about their presence, according to the documents.
School district officials could not be reached for comment. But the county’s board of education said in a statement last week that “Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year.”
Here’s my opinion; Constance shouldn’t get her “own” prom- that’s not a solution to a civil rights violation.
If she isn’t allowed to attend her high school prom with the rest of her classmates, it is a violation of her right to be treated equally in this country.
I’m not gay- but I am a member of a group of people who experience discrimination on a regular- I’m a Black woman. When I see things like “special” or “gay friendly” prom- that still sounds like segregation to me. Just the thought brings so many images to mind, so many stories handed down through my family.
It also makes me think about the Supreme Court’s Brown v Board ruling, where they declared clearly, separate cannot be equal…a separate prom for Constance- or any other gay teen- is not equal. If she has to settle with a “special” prom, the battle will have been lost. The fight is for equality.
There is only one prom- and Constance should be there.