Instead of allowing a teenaged lesbian couple to attend their senior prom, Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi canceled the dance altogether.
According to the Associated Press, a hearing will be held tomorrow to hear a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that seeks to overturn the school’s decision.
The school district decided to cancel the event on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, after the ACLU demanded that district officials modify a ban on same-sex dates on the grounds that it violates students’ rights. The district says the move was simply a response to a disruption to the educational process.
Time magazine reported that Constance McMillen, the 18-year-old at the center of the controversy, is suing the school district in federal court. McMillen is asking that the district be forced to reinstate the dance.
McMillen wanted to bring a same-sex date to her prom. After the school canceled the April 2 event, she faced criticism from her classmates and peers. Despite not having much support in her community, a facebook group supporting her cause has well over 384,000 fans.
The school is also accused of violating McMillen’s constitutionally protected freedom of expression by refusing to allow her to wear a tuxedo.
The ACLU filed McMillen’s challenge with the U.S. District Court in Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday, March 11, 2010.
In court documents filed last week, McMillen says she was told that she and her girlfriend could not attend prom together by the school’s assistant principal, who also suggested that the two just go with “guys.”
The superintendent was responsible for telling McMillen that she had to wear a dress to prom and that she and her girlfriend would not be allowed to slow dance because it could “push people’s buttons.” According to the ACLU, school officials threatened to throw the couple out of the dance if they were caught dancing together, and if other students complained about their presence.
A private, "discriminatory" prom has been set up at the request of the school to substitute for the canceled event. According to a report at DallasVoice.com, McMillen is not invited.
U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation in late January that would make it illegal to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender school students.