ACLU, Education / Schools, Free Speech, Gay, Lesbians

You Can Dance If You Want To (Unless You’re a Lesbian)
Judge declines to order school to hold prom.

Don’t be misled by the photo — this isn’t another post about Snooki. It’s about Constance McMillen (pictured), a lesbian high schooler who wanted to bring her girlfriend to the high school prom.

(Query from Elie: Is “lesbian high schooler” the politically correct way to say “girls’ hockey team”?)

The Clarion-Ledger reports:

Both sides are claiming victory from a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday on a Mississippi school board’s decision to cancel the prom rather than allow a lesbian student to attend with her girlfriend.

U.S. District Court Judge Glen Davidson denied 18-year-old senior Constance McMillen’s request to reinstate the prom, noting “the court cannot go into the business of planning and overseeing a prom.”

To paraphrase Justice Blackmun: From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of teenage sex.

So if Judge Davidson declined to “so order” a high school prom, how can McMillen claim victory?

Because the judge held that Constance McMillen’s First Amendment rights were violated, according to the AP:

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the American Civil Liberties Union’s demand to force the Itawamba County school district to put on the April 2 prom. However, he said canceling it did violate 18-year-old Constance McMillen’s rights and that he would hold a trial on the issue.

That would come too late for the prom to be salvaged at Itawamba Agricultural High School. Still, Kristy Bennett, ACLU Mississippi legal director, called the decision a victory.

Why are we not surprised that a high school with the world “Agricultural” in its name isn’t cool with two girls cutting (and munching) the proverbial rug?

So what happens next? The official school prom has been canceled, but parents have organized a private one — to which McMillen and her girlfriend are not invited.

But don’t shed tears for McMillen. The private prom doesn’t sound like much fun. It’s being held at a furniture mart in Tupelo.

While her pimply classmates slow-dance amidst clearance-priced ottomans, to the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift, McMillen will probably be doing something far more glamorous — like appearing on a late night talk show, perhaps. She has been making the rounds on national television, recently appearing on the talk show of uber-lesbian Ellen DeGeneres, who presented McMillen with a $30,000 scholarship.

Constance McMillen has become a national hero to the LGBT rights movement. A Facebook page in support of her has over 400,000 fans. This entire episode has been a publicity coup for McMillen (as well as great fodder for a future law school essay).

As it turns out, the South has something of a history when it comes to exclusionary high school proms. From the Christian Science Monitor:

The gay-rights question on whether to allow same-sex dates at school-sponsored proms is becoming as prevalent in the Bible Belt as whether to host racially integrated dances. In the South, schools have often avoided racially integrated dances and constitutional questions by having parents or small businesses sponsor segregated dances.

For instance, Charleston High School in Mississippi held its first racially integrated prom just two years ago. The event came about only after the school accepted actor and Charleston native Morgan Freeman’s offer to pay for the senior prom. His only condition: That both blacks and white could attend. Some whites, however, still held their own “white only” prom.

A “white only” prom? Seriously? In the year 2010?

Look, we have nothing against the South (although Elie may have a different view). We want to be able to defend the South against stereotypes of racism, and backwardness, and cousin-humping. But stuff like this makes it pretty tough.

We can see arguments in favor of prohibiting a self-identified high school lesbian from bringing her girlfriend to prom. It could be argued that it would be disruptive. It could be argued that it’s being done to protect the student and her gal pal. It could be argued that high school girls are too young to know whether they truly are lesbians.

But a racially segregated prom — in this day and age, over 50 years after Brown v. Board? That seems a bit… insane.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: the Constance McMillen case, and whether same-sex couples should be allowed to attend high school proms. What are your views on this issue? Sound off in the comments, and take our poll:

Both sides claim win in Mississippi lesbian teen’s prom lawsuit [Clarion Ledger via ABA Journal]
District defends nixing prom [Clarion Ledger]
Judge Won’t Force School to Hold Prom [Associated Press]
Constance McMillen case: proms as gay-rights battleground [Christian Science Monitor]
Judge Rules for Lesbian Teen, But Won’t Force School to Hold Prom [ABA Journal]
Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom! [Facebook]

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