In the era of Will & Grace, Portia & Ellen and Neil & John, it’s hard to believe that there’s a public school in America that would insist on holding a “straights-only” prom or else none at all. But sure enough, Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi is trying to do just that.
Constance McMillen, an 18 year-old senior at IAHS, approached her school’s administration because she wanted to attend prom with her girlfriend, also an IAHS student, and knew that same-sex dates had been banned in the past. After meeting with school officials, she was told that she and her girlfriend would not be allowed to attend together. Constance was also warned that they would be thrown out even if they came separately but tried to slow dance with each other or even if their presence made other students “uncomfortable.”
That’s when Constance contacted the ACLU, and we sent the school a letter demanding that they respect her constitutional right to bring a female student as her prom date and to wear a tux. The school board met over the issue and, apparently, saw that there was no way they could hold a prom and not allow Constance and her girlfriend to attend.
What is up with that? As Constance has said “prom is one of those high school moments everyone should get to experience and enjoy.” How did this school board decide that it would be better to rob the entire school of that experience rather than let two of their own students attend together? Are they stuck in 1953?
Today we filed a lawsuit in federal court that charges that school officials are violating Constance’s First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. We will be asking the court in the next week to grant a preliminary injunction ordering the school to reinstate the April 2nd prom.
Constance’s story has struck a chord with the media and she’s been featured in everything from USAToday to the front page of Yahoo! We hope all the national media attention will shock the school board to their senses and that – for the good of ALL of their students – they’ll hold the prom and allow Constance and her girlfriend to attend. And if they do, we’ll be the first to welcome them to 2010.