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ABERDEEN, MS – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal court to act quickly in its lawsuit against a Mississippi High School that says it will cancel the prom rather than let a lesbian high school student attend with her girlfriend. In legal papers filed today, the ACLU asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to issue a preliminary injunction stopping the Itawamba County School District from canceling the prom and from prohibiting Constance McMillen from bringing her girlfriend as a date and wearing a tuxedo to the event. A hearing on the motion has been set for 10 A.M. Monday, March 22 at the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen.
“The prom is important to all of the students at my school, and I never thought the school would try to cancel the prom and hurt everyone just to keep me and my girlfriend from going together,” said McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. “A lot of people have made really generous offers to pay for a prom somewhere else, which I really appreciate – but all I’ve ever wanted was to be able to just go to my own school’s prom with my girlfriend.”
McMillen’s case has attracted national attention, and dozens of offers to host or help fund an alternative independent prom have flooded in from around the country since the news came out last week that school officials were going to cancel the prom. The School District’s announcement came shortly after the ACLU and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition demanded that the district reverse its decision to prohibit McMillen from attending the prom with her girlfriend, also a student at IAHS. According to McMillen, school officials told her that she could not arrive at the prom with her girlfriend and that they might be thrown out if any other students complained about their presence at the April 2 event. Since McMillen’s case was filed, a Facebook page set up for her case has attracted nearly 300,000 supporters to date.
“It’s wonderful that so many people have come forward to support Constance, and we hope that the support helps convince the school that it should treat all of its students fairly and equally,” said Kristy Bennett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students have a right to be open and honest about who they are at school, and schools shouldn’t treat any students worse or differently because of who they are.”
“We are determined to get the IAHS prom back on the calendar and open to all students,” said Christine P. Sun, Senior Counsel with the ACLU national LGBT Project, who represents McMillen along with the ACLU of Mississippi. “What this case comes down to is the school taking the extraordinary measure of canceling the prom rather than live up to its legal obligation to fairly treat all students who want to come to it.”
McMillen is represented by Bennett and Sun, as well as by Norman C. Simon and Joshua Glick of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.
The case name is Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County School District, et al. Additional information, including a copy of today’s motion, is available at https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/fulton-ms-prom-discrimination. There is also a Facebook group for people who want to support McMillen, “Let Constance Bring Her Girlfriend to the Prom,” at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Let-Constance-Take-Her-Girlfriend-to-Prom/357686784817.