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News: World

Fri 12 Mar, 2010
By Danielle Carter

I explained to him that you can't pretend like there's not gay people at our school, and if you tell people they can't bring same-sex date, that is discrimination to them

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Lesbian student speaks out about cancelled Prom

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking a court order to force a Mississippi high school to hold its senior prom. On Wednesday, school officials cancelled the event after a female student asked to bring her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports that, in Fulton, Miss., charges of discrimination and violation of a teenager's rights have derailed the prom plans.

Senior Constance McMillen, 18, was ready for the prom.

She even had a date. But the problem at Itawamba County Agricultural High School, says Strassmann, was her sophomore -- girlfriend.

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McMillen told CBS News, "I just want to go to the prom and bring my date, just like everyone else gets to."

But in Fulton, says Strassmann, the idea of a lesbian prom couple hit a nerve.

The school board said it violated their policy against same-sex couples at the dance.

So McMillen couldn't bring her girlfriend. And she couldn't wear a tuxedo. Lawyers on all sides got involved. he school board cancelled the dance, saying in a statement the decision was "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."

McMillen said on "The Early Show" that, when she spoke with her school's principal in December about her intentions to bring her girlfriend to the prom, he told her it wasn't allowed. When she asked why, he told her it concerned the tickets for the event.

She said, "He said that something about when the tickets were first started, that it was cheaper for people to come as a date, like just two friends than to come individually, so people would do that and they were just trying to prohibit that."

But McMillen said, "I explained to him that you can't pretend like there's not gay people at our school, and if you tell people they can't bring same-sex date, that is discrimination to them."

McMillen said the feeling at school is "hostile" and "silent" since it was announced the prom has been cancelled.

She said she's been told by classmates that she's ruined their senior year.

"But you'll have people that are going to be like that," she said. "It hurts, but there's nothing I can do about it, but just hope they understand that was never my intention. Now I'm fighting for prom for everybody now."

But McMillen said she doesn't regret asking to go with her girlfriend.

Hill pointed out that McMillen's school hasn't explicitly said they've cancelled the prom because of McMillen's request. But McMillen's lawyer Christine Sun, of the American Civil Liberties Union, thinks it's clearly the reason the prom was called off.

She said, "The ACLU sent a letter on Constance's behalf, and one week later, the school cancelled the prom."

Sun said the ACLU is "fighting tooth and nail" for the prom to be reinstated, adding, "We're working on an emergency motion it go before the court to get the prom reinstated so Constance can bring her girlfriend and everybody can be themselves."

On a national level, McMillen said, "I just want other kids to know that it's not right for schools to do that and I want them to be able to know that they can get a hold of the ACLU … and they help people through stuff like this. Because schools, they shouldn't be able to do that."

McMillen added that kids need to be true to themselves.

"That's how I was raised," she said. "I don't know how everybody was raised, but that's how I was raised, to always be yourself and be proud of who you are. And it's like they're asking you, like for prom, you can be gay, just don't be openly gay, just hide it for a little while."

Source: CBS


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