ACLU fighting Mississippi school's 'no lesbians at the prom' rule

Posted on 02 Mar 2010 at 2:15pm

Constance McMillen, 18, is a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi. She is also a lesbian. And she wants to take her girlfriend to her senior prom.

School officials said no. They said Constance and her girlfriend cannot arrive at the prom together and Constance cannot wear a tuxedo to the prom. They can both go to the prom separately, and if they both wear the “appropriate attire.” But then, if any of the other students complain about them being there, Constance and her girlfriend will be thrown out.

(From the way the press release was written, it implies that the lesbian couple’s mere presence is enough to make other students uncomfortable enough to complain and warrant the couple’s ejection from the event.)

So now, the ACLU and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition have issued a demand that Itawamba County Schools officials reverse their decision and let Constance and her girlfriend attend prom as a couple. The two groups sent a letter to school officials that “cited federal court cases guaranteeing students’ First Amendment right to bring same-sex dates to school dances, and also pointed out that treating McMillen and other lesbian, gay, and bisexual students differently from other students violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. In addition to illegally barring McMillen and her girlfriend from attending the prom together, the ACLU said that the school further violated McMillen’s free expression rights by telling her that she can’t wear a tuxedo to the prom,” according to the press release from the ACLU.

Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said: “Prom is supposed to be about all students being able to express themselves, have fun, and make memories that will last the rest of their lives. Constance has a constitutional right to take the person she’s dating to the prom, just like any other student at any other public school.”

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