This month in Fulton, Mississippi, two girls wanted to go to prom together, and one of them wanted to wear a tux. When one of the girls—high school senior Constance McMillen—challenged the school’s written policy that prom dates must be of the opposite sex, the school board decided: NO PROM FOR ANYONE!
So McMillen–and the ACLU–are suing.
USA Today reports:
JACKSON, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi today filed suit in federal court against the Itawamba County School System, which canceled the prom for one of its high schools when a student challenged a ban on bringing same-sex dates. The federal suit asks the court to force the school board to reinstate the prom and alleges that district officials have violated the First Amendment rights of Constance McMillen, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School.
“It’s shameful and cowardly of the school district to have canceled the prom and to try to blame Constance, who’s only standing up for herself,” said Christine Sun, an attorney with the ACLU national LGBT Project. “We will fight tooth and nail for the prom to be reinstated for all students.”
PhDork correctly summed up the school’s reasoning as: OMG LEZBOHZ! Honestly, there’s absolutely no logical way you can argue that Constance McMillen’s going to the prom with her girlfriend and wearing a tux poses a threat to anyone. SRSLY.
According to the Associated Press:
The school board issued a statement announcing it wouldn’t host the event, “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.”
The statement didn’t mention McMillen or the ACLU. When asked by the AP if McMillen’s demand led to the cancellation, school board attorney Michele Floyd said she could only reference the statement.
“I guess they would rather do that than what’s right, what’s constitutionally correct,” McMillen said.
I expect the court will be constitutionally correcting the Itawamba school board’s ass pretty soon. As for “distraction to the educational process”–give me a fucking break. We’re talking about the prom. You get dressed up, you dance awkwardly to a slow jam or two. Nothing educational happens at prom, unless it’s learning what happens as a result of too much Southern Comfort and/or unprotected sex. And hell, one of my high school friends–occasional Harpyness commenter veggiewood–wore a chic pantsuit to our prom, and it was never an issue. That was 18 years ago! Come on, Itawamba County…get a fucking grip!
Of course, historically, Southern bigots have always found a way to pay for something privately so they can exclude whoever they want, be it private schools, swimming pools or proms. So in the the best Mississippi segregationist tradition:
The school district had said it hoped a privately sponsored prom could be held. McMillen said if that happens, she’s sure she’ll be excluded.
“It’s a small town in Mississippi, and it’s run by an older generation with money. Most of them are more conservative and they don’t agree with it,” she said.
This event is reminiscent of how schools in nearby Charleston, MS, had separate proms for black and white students until 2008, when actor Morgan Freeman agreed to pay for an integrated one (of course, he’d first made the offer to do so in 1997; it took 11 years for it to be accepted.) The first integrated Charleston, MS prom was the subject of a documentary called “Prom Night in Mississippi.”
A Facebook group just started, asking Mississippi-loving Ellen Degeneres (her family is from Pass Christian) to organize Itawamba High School’s prom:
I’m asking Ellen DeGeneres, an awesome spokesperson for the LGBT community, and all-around cool person to organize a FABULOUS and unforgettable prom, for ALL the students, to which they can bring whomever they wish as their date. We need to send a mesage to the people of that town, and all towns, that if they target our kids with their hate, and intolerance, we will shower those kids with our love, and support, and isn’t Ellen is the perfect messenger for this? Please help me ask her, she is a busy woman, and there are so many people approaching her for things, but if enough of us are asking, we might just be able to get her attention, and maybe make it happen.
The comments on the FB page are really heartening. It would be great if Ellen would help. It would be even greater if the ACLU opens a giant can of whoop-ass on the Itawamba School District.
Let’s all send some serious Harpy love and support to Constance McMillen, who told the AP:
“My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I’m still proud of who I am,” McMillen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “The fact that this will help people later on, that’s what’s helping me to go on.”