It was quite the day in Washington, D.C., yesterday for ACLU client Constance McMillen. Constance made headlines this spring when her Mississippi high school took the extraordinary step of canceling the school prom rather than allow her to go with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. Constance and her girlfriend were eventually sent to a “decoy” prom that was attended by only a few other students while the rest of her classmates attended a private prom 30 miles away.
Constance was in D.C. to attend a White House reception with President Obama in honor of LGBT Pride. President Obama closed his remarks at the reception by highlighting the struggles of LGBT young people like Constance who, through their courage and commitment, are helping to make change happen in America and opening hearts and minds in the process.
Constance made the most of her time in D.C. by squeezing in a jam-packed day advocating for protections for other LGBT students across the country. She started the day with a CNN interview, in which she stated that the reason she has been so willing to speak out is so other LGBT youth will not have to endure the same struggles she and others like her have had to.
Next up was a personal sit-down meeting with Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), lead sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 3390/H.R. 4530). This legislation would bar discrimination based on "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity" in public elementary and secondary schools across the country, and would provide legal remedies to students whose civil rights were violated. There is simply no reason why these important protections should not be afforded to LGBT students, a particularly vulnerable population in many schools.
After the meeting with Sen. Franken, and a few pictures in front of the Supreme Court and Capitol, it was off to a gathering of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Constance got to meet with LGBT congressional staff members who use their positions of power and influence over matters of public policy to advance the rights of all LGBT Americans. Several spoke up and told Constance that they wished they had been so brave in high school to push to bring their boyfriend or girlfriend with them to their proms.
All in all, it was a great day, capped with a personal meeting (and pictures) with President Obama. Young people like Constance offer the best hope for all those who support the rights of LGBT people because they show that the movement is as strong as ever, with terrific leaders and advocates waiting in the wings.