Judge Acknowledges Discrimination, But Won't Reinstate Prom


Constance McMillen‘s prom won’t be reinstated — but her case has already inspired another school to open its prom to gay students. Will others follow suit?

US District Judge Glen Davidson ruled yesterday that Itawamba County School District had violated McMillen’s rights by barring her from bringing her girlfriend or wearing a tux to prom. However, he didn’t require that the school reinstate its canceled prom, saying that a planned private prom was sufficient and that asking the district “to step back into a sponsorship role at this late date would only confuse and confound the community on the issue.” However, McMillen has yet to be invited to the private prom, held at a furniture store in Tupelo, Mississippi. Her lawyer Christine Sun says,

Constance has not been invited, so it is clear to me that what is happening is that the school has encouraged a private prom that is not open to all the students.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that schools have frequently held private prom in order to keep them racially segregated, and until McMillen is invited, her school’s strategy seems like another form of segregation. The case may set a disturbing precedent that schools can get around equality by shifting their events off into the private sector, but there are also some reasons for hope. McMillen herself is happy with the ruling, saying, “I think that the judge made a good decision. I’m glad that he did realize that the school did violate my rights.” And of the help she’s received from Ellen DeGeneres, Facebook fans, and others, she says, “I’m glad that so many people support me, because … that keeps me pushing forward. Because I realize that it’s not only important to me, it’s important to other people, too.”

One other person who may have benefited from McMillen’s efforts is eighteen-year-old Derrick Martin, who will be allowed to bring his boyfriend to prom at his Georgia high school. His principal says, “You don’t have the right to say no. As a principal, I don’t judge him. I’m taught not to judge. I have to push my own beliefs to the background.” And of his decision to bring his boyfriend, rather than going with a female friend as he did last year, Martin says, “It’s standing up for the rights thing, especially after the Mississippi canceled prom.” On CBS’s Early Show a few weeks ago, McMillen said, “It’s kind of like I’m fighting for prom for everybody now.” Setbacks aside, she may be winning.

Constance McMillen Case: Proms As Gay-Rights Battleground [Christian Science Monitor]
Judge: School Violated Lesbian’s Rights, But Prom Cancellation Valid [CNN]
District Defends Nixing Prom [Clarion Ledger]
Prom Fight Was Worth It, Gay Teen Says [CBS/AP]
Bleckley School Officials Allowing Gay Prom Date [Macon.com]
Lesbian Constance McMillen Excluded From Alternative Prom Organized By Students’ Parents. [ThinkProgress]

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